Unlike their male counterparts, women have a different set of nutritional requirements. Their biological needs vary with their menstrual cycles, various stages of life (menarche, pregnancy, menopause), vitamin deficiencies, hormonal changes, and so on. For a woman, her diet depends on her physical activities, metabolism, body type, and goals with a higher need for minerals and vitamins while ensuring the intake of iron and folic acid is maintained. Let us look at five of the healthiest food items that a woman can consume as part of nutrition that provides proper nourishment and balance to her body:
1. Sesame Seeds: Packed with various nutrients and fibre, sesame seeds can be quite beneficial when added to our daily diet. They can be consumed lightly roasted, crushed, or sprinkled over one's food. Sesame seeds are rich in calcium and thus beneficial for healthy bones. The presence of calcium and phosphorus provides strength to our bones. Regular consumption of sesame seed oil helps in managing blood glucose and cholesterol levels due to its antioxidant property. It helps in maintaining the level of high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol in the body while lowering low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol. Using sesame seed oil to massage the joints helps in the management of arthritic pain and inflammation. The oil is also beneficial for the skin and applying it tightens the skin due to the presence of antioxidants. It also promotes the healing of wounds due to its antibacterial and antifungal properties.
2. Papaya: It is rich in fibre, vitamins A and C, antioxidants and enzymes that are known to promote anti-ageing. Derived from unripe papayas, papain is a strong digestive aid. Papain is an enzyme that works by breaking down proteins, and in turn, helps the gut soak up more vital nutrients. Many women suffer from digestive issues and indigestion due to low stomach acids. Papaya offers a great source of digestive enzymes. Among the multitude of benefits it offers, consuming papaya leaf juice increases red blood cells and platelet counts.
3. Cruciferous vegetables: Medical science has today shown us that cruciferous vegetables can help us prevent every single type of cancer. Barring those who are allergic to sulfur, cruciferous vegetables are recommended to be regularly consumed by everyone as it has extremely beneficial effects. While cancer is multifactorial, cruciferous vegetables are known to exhibit anti-cancer properties and should be included in our daily plate.
Arugula, beet greens, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radishes, red cabbage, turnip greens, watercress, and more are examples of crucifers. They contain certain elements, and compounds that go a long way in protecting our DNA, boosting immunity, and keeping inflammation low. Cruciferous vegetables are low calorie, rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, all of which are necessary for the prevention of most diseases. In case you have a thyroid condition, it is recommended that you consume cooked cruciferous vegetables instead of raw, as that could interfere with your thyroid function.
4. Eggs: Being rich in vitamins B5 and B6, eggs play an important role in balancing hormones. For women, especially, coping with stress, in particular, vitamins B5 and B6, act as vital nourishment for the body. Consuming eggs helps the body in creating new cells and also improves brain and eye health. Including eggs as a part of the diet introduces the body to important nutrients like choline, lutein, and zeaxanthin which help in better brain activity. These wide benefits apart, eggs also contain omega-3 fatty acids that can help in better fertility for women. Vitamin E which is known to aid sexual performance and provide energy is also found in eggs making it a must-have food.
5. Curd: If tolerant to dairy, curd from ethically spruced milk is rich in calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, and potassium making it good for bone health and lowering cholesterol. Curd, also naturally contains a lot of probiotic cultures that strengthen the digestive tract by populating our gut with good bacteria. It is known to restore the yeast balance of the vagina due to the presence of lactobacillus bacteria which helps to prevent vaginal infection. It reduces the growth of infections in the body by producing hydrogen peroxide which deals with yeast.
(Luke Coutinho is co-founder of You Care Lifestyle)