What a woman needs.
I am an athlete. I train like one and I eat like one. But I am l a woman first. A woman’s nutrition differs from that of my male counterpart. I spent some time researching and tweaking my nutrition. As I wrote about in What are YOU eating?, I have chosen to follow basically a [...]
I am an athlete. I train like one and I eat like one. But I am l a woman first. A woman’s nutrition differs from that of my male counterpart. I spent some time researching and tweaking my nutrition. As I wrote about in What are YOU eating?, I have chosen to follow basically a vegan diet. I have been eating this way for almost 5 weeks and still energized, strong, satiated, and less bloated. I started wondering, however, am I getting all the nutrients I need, specifically the nutrients a woman needs. The top rated nutrients that kept coming up are; calcium, folic acid, fiber, iron and water, along with Vitamin A, B, C, D and E. Let’s take a look at each one at a time.
Calcium has always been the number one nutrient listed for women. As children we are told we need calcium for strong bones. As teenagers we are gaining bone density that we will need to rely on later in life. And as adolescence we are reminded that we need enough calcium in our bones to prevent osteoporosis. The question is how much and what is the best source? Adults need about 1000 mg of calcium every day. Adolescents, women over 50, and men over 70 need about 1300 mg. To get a rough estimate of how much calcium you’re getting, start with 250 milligrams as your baseline. The number one answer from where: milk (1 cup= 300 mg). Well, for the sake of argument, remember I am eating a non-animal based diet. So, let’s look at some alternatives. Ten medium dried figs=269mg, 1 cup calcium-fortified orange juice=300mg, 1 cup enriched soy milk =300mg, 1 cup enriched rice milk=300mg and 1 cup broccoli =178mg. Other sources of calcium can be found in many fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. Keep in mind that it is the total about of calcium consumed daily. My top pick is dried figs, considering it is presented in the most natural state.
When continuing my research I found that Folic Acid is actually a manmade form of folate, which occurs naturally in foods. Foods high-folate foods support red blood cell production and help prevent anemia, help prevent homocysteine build-up in your blood, support cell production, especially in your skin, allow nerves to function properly, help prevent osteoporosis-related bone fractures, help prevent dementias including Alzheimer’s disease. Everyone wants to avoid these complications but the following indicators that you need more high-folate foods may be an eye opener: irritability, mental fatigue, forgetfulness, or confusion, depression, insomnia, general or muscular fatigue, gingivitis or periodontal disease. Unlike calcium, too much folate can cause more harm than good. The RDA recommends 180 micrograms per day for women. Excellent sources of folate include romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, mustard greens, calf’s liver, parsley, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, and lentils. Very good sources include squash, black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, papaya and string beans. Knowing your own likes and body tolerances can help determine which foods work best for you. I lean more towards the leafy greens.
And then there was fiber. My full opinion on fiber has not yet been formed. This is why. Before Shakeology, I was told all my digestive issues were due to the lack of fiber in my diet. Although, I agree fiber is important to everyone’s diet in order to lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, diverticulitis, and constipation, I feel that adding in extra fiber is not always the answer. Since fiber enters and exits your body in pretty much the same fashion, the average person only needs 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. That is a LOT less then what people may think. Soluble fiber can be found in carrots, legumes, cabbage, citrus fruits, and green beans are rich sources of soluble fiber. So are the interiors of fresh pears, apples, peaches, and apricots. Insoluble fiber, also known as cellulose, is in the exterior of all fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. It’s the peel of an apple, the membrane around the juicy part of an orange, the transparent cover over beans, the strings in a stalk of celery, and the nearly transparent slipcover on corn. Insoluble fiber helps to prevent constipation, diverticulitis, and hemorrhoids, and may help decrease the risk of colon cancer. Sure fiber helps you lose weight by filling your belly, acting like a sponge, it’s slower to be digested and absorbed, so it makes you feel full. But too much fiber can leave you feeling bloated and have the reverse reaction to your digestive system. Officially, fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. Most adult women should aim for 20 grams of fiber a day.
Popeye was missing something with all that spinach, iron. Your body needs iron so it can make hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to body tissues. Brain activity, breathing, cellular respiration and every activity of the body depends on there being enough iron in the blood. A sign that you have good iron levels in your body are a glowing complexion, high energy levels, and an overall feel-good feeling. An iron deficiency can result in fatigue, memory loss, poor concentration, apathy, shortened attention span, and reduced work performance. Other symptoms include: split nails, cold hands and feet, and restless legs. The mineral also plays a vital role in your immune system and metabolizing essential B vitamins. Without adequate iron, you have tired blood that can make you more susceptible to colds and other infections. The adequate amount a woman needs of iron is a mere 18 mg. per day. Some of the top iron rich foods are; Garbanzo beans 1/2 cup, cooked =3.4mg, Soybeans 1/2 cup =7mg, Tofu 1/2 cup =6.2mg, Sun-dried tomatoes 1/2 cup =9mg, Potatoes, with the skin 1/2 cup =3.2mg, Pine nuts 1/2 cup =9, Pumpkin seeds 1/2 cup =14mg, Sunflower seeds 1/2 cup =6.7mg, Flax seed 1/2 cup =6.2mg, and for my non-vegetarian friends; Ground beef 1 patty =4mg, Steak 3 oz =4mg, Turkey (dark meat) 3 oz =4mg, and Oysters 3 oz, steamed =7.4mg. My pick would be sun-dried tomatoes and pumpkin seeds.
If I had to pick the hardest nutrient to ensure I am reaching an adequate amount daily, it would be water. I drink water. I drink a lot of water. All I drink is water. But how much should I really be drinking? On average, not including the amount of fluid lost during physical activity, a woman who is adequately hydrated consumes about 2.7 liters (91 fluid ounces) of total water a day. Since food typically accounts for about 20 percent of fluid intake, this means drinking roughly 2.2 liters (74 ounces or about 9 cups) of beverages a day, preferably water. That’s a lot of water. The key to success I have found is to drink 1-2 glasses every hour. This can include during your meals. Signs of dehydration include; dry, sticky mouth, sleepiness or tiredness, thirst, decreased urine output, few or no tears when crying, dry skin, headache, constipation, dizziness or lightheaded.
So bottom line, a woman’s nutrition is basic and can be successful maintained with healthy, natural food, which will naturally contain essential vitamins, and an adequate amount of water. Whether you chose to incorporate animal based products or not, you can find these top 5 nutrients needed for optimal health without a pill.