Nutrition for women at every stage is of paramount importance

Good nutrition forms the backbone of a healthy body. Having a structured diet with optimum calorie intake, vitamins and minerals, protein, carbohydrate and water is of paramount importance for the smooth functioning of all the organs.  Women of all age groups need to pay close attention to their nutritional intake.

In an exclusive interview with Kulpreet Freddy Vesuna, Editor-in- Chief, Impact , Dr. Archana Dhawan Bajaj, Gynecologist, Obstetrician and IVF Expert, Nurture IVF Centre, talks on the importance of nutrition for women at every stage.

Why is nutrition important for women?

Nutrition is important for women for 2 main reasons- women look after everybody in the family and neglect their own health. They make superhuman efforts at all fronts to cater to the needs of all family members and if they are not healthy they will not be able to look after the others in the family. Secondly, women have the ability to procreate and give birth to another human being. They should get proper nutrition to have a healthy pregnancy and be able to ensure that the health and the immunity of the new born is also well taken care of.

What are the nutritional requirements for women between 20- 30 years?

20 – 30 years being the reproductive age requires a balanced diet. Young women in this age group should have an optimal weight (not too lean or too obese), try to maintain a healthy BMI of around 25-28 as per height and weight. To attain this, they should include 1-1.5g/kg body weight of protein in diet, a certain amount of carbohydrates and fats and a generous dose of minerals as well.

Why should women pay close attention to their nutrition status during pregnancy?

Pregnant women should include Folic acid in their diet which is a pre-conceptional vitamin and helps to prevent head and spine defects in the baby. Mothers also need to take care of their calcium and iron requirements because the baby draws his vitamin, calcium and iron requirements from the mother. Undernourished mother will not be able to fulfil the nutritional requirements of the child and can herself be nutrition deprived as well.

One of the leading causes of maternal mortality in India is malnutrition and anemia. Malnutrition and anemic women tend to have more complications at the time of child birth like postpartum hemorrhages, placental accidents and abruptions. Anemia is the root cause of most complications that arise in pregnancy.

Should women indulge in consumption of alcohol or recreational drugs during pregnancy?

Indulging in all these activities at a young age can have very serious implications on the fertility status, affect the egg quality and have serious consequences on the unborn child.

Use of recreational drugs not only affect pregnant women but also have serious consequences on the baby, so consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is ideally a no. However, if they cannot resist, they should limit their intake of alcohol during pregnancy.

Fetal alcohol syndrome has serious repercussions on the baby leading to growth restrictions, mental development, low birth weight babies, intra-uterine growth restriction, placental accidents and behavioral issues in children.

What are the health complications that arise in women between 30-40 years and what diet should they follow?

Health complications can arise in women between 30-40 years due to nutritional deficiencies as this is a transitional phase and women tend to neglect their health, slowly developing a casual attitude towards their health. At this point the calorie requirements start scaling down and this is the time to optimize dietary requirements.

Women should be careful not to gain extra weight because extra weight would lead to diseases like  hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetic and pre diabetic status later in life. Also at this stage protein, vitamins, minerals and calcium requirements go up. In the mid or late 30 when gradually wrinkles start setting in and hair and skin lose their texture so an adequate amount of Vitamin A, B12, E and C is required to help gain resistance against diseases and prevent metabolic disorders. Also the intake of iodine is essential to avoid hypothyroidism by late 30.

How can women deal with menopause?

Perimenopause walks a woman into menopause marking the end of reproductive years and this is the time when the body begins to age and becomes hormone deficient. Women should look at scaling down their calorie intake to not gain extra weight, scale up the protein intake and optimize carbohydrate intake. At perimenopausal age where estrogen deficiency starts setting in, consuming Soya products is a good option as they are natural source of estrogen.

In the early 50 calcium deficiency occurs in women so milk or calcium supplements, sprouts, whole pulses, broccoli, avocado, all leafy vegetables can be a good source of nutrition for the body.  Women should drink a lot of water and reduce caffeine intake. Switching from regular tea to green tea or chamomile tea helps tide over water retention and joint pain.

Apart from eating healthy what else should be done to stay fit?

In order to avoid osteoporosis and other diseases that set in with age, women should go for regular health checkups. Not just eating healthy is important for proper functioning of the body but incorporating some form of exercise in the routine like walking, zumba, pilates, yoga, meditation will be a stimulus to a healthy life and help cope with hormonal changes.

Also these days young adults tend to not eat, exercise beyond healthy exercise pattern to lose weight tremendously and this can lead to diseases like anorexia and bulimia in teen girls.  Parents need to keep a check on their children to ensure that they are eating properly.

Diet mantra for girls with PCOSs?

Pcos is very common these days and is typically associated with obesity but can occur in lean girls as well. Diet mantra for girls with Pcos and those who witness irregular menstrual cycles is less of carbohydrates and fat and more of proteins. A normal Indian diet with a little optimization with more of protein rich food and  marginal reduction of carbohydrate is enough to provide all nutritional benefits to the body.