Today’s super woman plays several roles, that of a housewife, a mother to her child, a care giver to the elderly, a breadwinner for the family – she is the energy source for her household.
What can then fuel her to keep going with her daily challenges?
Women have unique nutritional needs, including more of certain micronutrients than men. They need adequate amount of macronutrients like Proteins, fat and carbohydrates. On an average, adult women need between 1600 and 2400 calories a day. Of course, women who are more physically active may need more calories. Women have different nutritional needs during different stages of life such as during pregnancy and breastfeeding or after menopause. Also, women naturally have close to 40% lower muscle mass than men and more body fat.
A balanced diet and a closer look to both portion sizes and meal occasions is a good starting point – as it lays the foundation of healthy dietary habits not only for her, but also for her family. A well-balanced diet contains all essential food groups vital for health, that provides for five primary nutrients which our body requires for proper functioning. Proteins helps to build our body’s structure, tissues and organs & supports immunity. Fats and carbohydrates are energy giving, vitamins & minerals are foods that helps build resistance to disease. Adequate intake of water is required for maintaining & regulating our body’s processes.
Around 25% of women of childbearing age are under nourished (Source: NHFS 4; 2015 -16) – an intergenerational cycle of undernutrition sets in; an undernourished mother is most likely to give birth to an undernourished baby. Poor maternal nutrition not only has negative consequences on a woman’s health but also impacts her newborn’s health.
A recent “Protein Paradox Study” highlighted interesting insights around India’s daily protein consumption habits. Eight out of ten mothers believe ‘Protein’ is important, yet protein was not included in their daily diets. The majority of mothers in the study, were not able to relate Protein with its crucial functions, held the view that lack of protein does not impact overall health & incorrectly believed that regular Indian diet consisting of roti, dal & rice is enough for daily protein needs. Furthermore, the study notes that close to 70% Indian mothers strongly believe in common myths such as “protein is difficult to digest”, “leads to weight gain” & “it is only for body building”
Women should plan to include foods rich in protein such as milk and milk products, eggs, lentils, pulses, meat. Women who are involved in desk jobs usually tend to gain weight, due to increased consumption of carbohydrate and fat rich foods, lower protein intake and lesser physical activity.
The importance of Nutrition becomes most significant when they are pregnant; yet many of them are not aware of how to improve their own diets and nutrition. During pregnancy, there is an incremental demand of several nutrients. Her diet should include high amounts of Protein, fats & cover for recommended intakes of minerals (Iron, Calcium, Iodine) and vitamins to name a few.
The NNBM survey notes that the majority of pregnant women in India meet lower than 50% of RDA for most nutrients. To identify need gaps in problem nutrients, she should work closely with her Managing Physician & Dietician
As we have seen, every women’s role, deserves the goodness of nutrition to fuel her goals in life. A lookout for food diversity, portion sizes & awareness on nutrition will be a good starting point. Are you willing to embark on this journey today?
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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