The modern day has consistently faced an increasing tide of work and personal lifestyle related stress, disorders and resultantly inadequate or even improper nutrition. At a time, when health disorders arising from dietary issues are on the rise, coupled with pressure or stress at work or at home, the new age Indian woman is in a situation of ever increasing need for a wholesome diet and nutritional supplements to ensure proper preventive healthcare.
While on one hand we see rise in the economic independence of modern Indian women, it is observed women are under nourished, have vitamin, iron and protein deficiencies. Therefore are increasingly becoming vulnerable to lifestyle disorders and ailments such as hypertension, diabetes, problems in conceiving, complicated pregnancy etc. Recent studies have shown that 53% of working women skip meals and indulge in junk food due to work-time pressures. Further, 60% of Indian working women between the age of 30 and 40 have exhibited symptoms of exhaustion, irritability and insomnia.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Indians are among the world’s most depressed and the burden of depression is 50% higher for females than males. Another research by WHO shares alarming findings that Osteoporosis-a global health challenge has worst hit Indians with one in three women is at risk of an osteoporotic fracture. There are more alarming findings that predict that three fourth of women in India are anaemic.
It is therefore imperative for the women to focus more on nutrition and balanced diet and adopt healthy lifestyle that includes physical exercise and positive thinking. For better understanding of women’s nutritional need, we could focus on four important stages of women’s life cycle:
ADOLESCENCE: a stage where body prepares for adulthood i.e. age group 12- 18. At this stage, girls need increased nutrition such iron, protein and calcium to meet the full growth potential, sound metal health, timely sexual maturation and improved ability to work. It is found that at this stage girls face problems related to obesity, cystic ovarian /menstrual issues, anaemia, anxiety /eating disorders etc. A woman loses 60mg of iron every month during puberty and therefore she may risk turning anaemic. At this stage there should be more emphasis on iron supplementation that boost metabolism and keep fatigue at bay.
Nutritional advise: Good fats such as nuts, fish, MUFA oils such as rice bran, groundnut oil, flaxseeds etc., Iron rich foods such as chicken, fish, moong, GLV etc., Consume low fat milk and its products, green leafy vegetables for calcium, Zinc from nuts, seafood and whole grains, Consume fruits and vegetables at every meal, protein rich diet which includes lean meat, poultry, or fish, egg, dairy products, soya, dried beans etc.
ADULT WOMEN: Women aged 18 and above are classified as adults. This stage is a turning point, which if taken proper care can be a huge support through different stages in women’s life cycle. A combination of nutrition coupled healthy physical and mental state of mind can help reduce PMS, boost fertility, combat stress, make pregnancy and nursing easier and ease symptoms of menopause. It is found that 60% between ages 30 – 40 have symptoms of exhaustion, irritability and insomnia, 53% of Women skip meals and eat junk food (busy schedule), 75% of the women are anemic, One third of women worry about thinning hair and going grey, One third of women suffer from osteoporosis…..an entry into adulthood with weak foundation can lead to unhealthy life stages.
Nutritional Advise: Focus on whole foods- fruits, vegetables, whole grains such as whole wheat, boiled/brown rice, whole moong, channa and so on, bone up on calcium (preventing bone loss which leads to osteoporosis) and magnesium (protect against immune dysfunction and cardiovascular disease) with banana, spinach, nuts etc., Eat good fats for healthy skin, pregnancy, memory etc., daily sun exposure for Vitamin D ……healthy diet to be accompanied by daily exercise.
PREGNANCY: It is at this stage that the nutritional requirements and demands increase….not only for the baby but also for the nourishment of the mother with focus of nutrition is healthy weight gain, prevent complications and safe delivery.
- Increased folic acid intake for brain and spinal cord formation of the baby- green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, yellow coloured fruits and vegetables, nuts…… Folic Acid is required for the development of neural tube in babies that leads to the development of central nervous system in the baby
- Increased iron requirements to prevent anaemia- jaggery, GLV, lean meats, whole cereals
- Increased calcium requirements for baby’s development- milk products, fish, cereals, GLV, nuts
- Increased protein requirements-lean meats such as fish, chicken, dals, milk products, nuts, eggs, soya etc.
- Increased energy requirements- only increase 300Kcal from RDA.
- Eat healthy fats for brainy babies- fish, healthy oils and fats, nuts, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, eggs
- Exercise daily to prevent weight gain and for easy deliveries
LACTATION: at this stage baby draws nutrition from the mother hence the nutrition need is doubled. Lack of nutritional diet will lead to failure to lactate, poor development of baby, anaemic baby/ mother and osteopenia.
Nutrition Advise: Increased Iron, Calcium and folic acid requirement, besides increased water and fluid intake along with daily exercise.
MENOPAUSE & AGEING: Menopause is a final stage in the women’s life cycle and at this phase, a women is prone to various health problems ranging from BP, diabetes, cardiac problems, Osteoporosis, depression and so on. Normal age for menopause is around 48- 50 years, but these days it is found that 20% Women have reach menopause by age 40 – 41. Early menopause brings along whole lot of physiological and psychological problems.
Nutritional Advise: Proper nutrition and regular exercise can ease the symptoms of menopause. Calcium along with magnesium and Vitamin D for bone health, Heart healthy fats such as groundnut/mustard oil, almonds, groundnuts, walnuts, flaxseeds, fish, soya which has phytoestrogens, besides they also prevent dry skin by adding vitamin E and zinc. Protein intake through egg whites, milk, soya to prevent irritability and depression as well as helps in getting good sleep. Avoid coffee, spices, alcohol, chocolates to prevent hot flushes and exercise daily for good sleep, to prevent muscle loss and weight gain.
In order to stay healthy, Indian women should increase the intake of unprocessed food, vegetables and fruits rich in these nutrients. However increased use of pesticides in farming causes depletion of the nutrients in vegetables and fruits, hence dietary supplements if used sensibly can also help bridge the gap of nutrients in the diet. Besides bridging the gap of nutrients in diet, Dietary supplements can also help women to deal with the phases like Menopause.
Nutrition is fairly important to bring lifestyle diseases under control among women. It is also crucial to raise the awareness level about the need of nutrition to stay healthy.
About the author:
Murthy Udupa, regional training manager, Amway India. He is a graduate in Pharmacy and a post graduate in Clinical Research. He is been with Amway since 2006 and prior to which he was associated with Wockhardt for about six years. Being a trainer in the field of nutrition, Murthy has a thorough understanding of the subject and its importance in today's era. He also is certified Neuro Linguistic Practitioner (NLP).