So often women prioritise the needs of others before themselves. It's like that scenario during the safety demonstration on an aeroplane when the oxygen masks drop down. Ask any mother and we bet her instinct would be to tend to her children before helping herself. Noble - yes, but you can't help anyone if you're unconscious! The same is true for maintaining your health (minus the unconscious part...).
When you're in good health - physically, mentally and emotionally, it becomes easier for you to help yourself and others. We know food plays an important role in our physical health, but what we eat and the social aspect of eating also enhances our mental health and supports our emotional health.
Read on to find out more about three key nutrients that are essential for good health for women of all ages.
Folate is one of the eight B vitamins and probably the one that attracts the most attention, particularly in regards to pregnancy. Folate is needed for the growth and reproduction of all cells in the body (yes, ALL of them - talk about an overachiever!).
During pregnancy, folate is required for the development of the baby's brain, spinal cord and skeleton. Because these structures are formed very early on in the pregnancy and often before the mother may even know she is pregnant, women who are trying to conceive have higher requirements for folate and are recommended to take a folic acid supplement.
The name folate actually comes from the Latin name for foliage, so look to green leafy veg for good sources.
Are you feeling tired or short of breath all the time? It may be worth getting your iron levels checked. In fact, iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in women.
Iron is essential for the production of haemoglobin, which carries oxygen around in the bloodstream. Due to the blood loss that occurs during menstruation, women require more iron than men throughout their childbearing years. The best sources are red meat, eggs, fortified cereals (yes, really - think Weet-Bix etc.), green leafy veg, eggs, chicken and fish.
Tip: to maximise iron absorption, pair iron-rich foods with foods rich in vitamin C. For example: red meat + tomatoes (spag bol is a winner here), fortified cereal + berries.
As women age, they require more of this bone-building nutrient than men. This is due to declining levels of oestrogen after menopause, which is a bone-protective hormone.
For women aged 50 years and older, the recommended dietary intake of calcium is 1300mg per day. This equates to four serves of dairy foods or calcium-enriched alternatives per day. Examples of one serve are:
- 200ml milk
- 40g hard cheese
- 200g tub of yoghurt