As we take time this year to celebrate our mothers this Mother’s Day, it is a good time to reflect on women’s health. In particular with nutrition, there are a few key things that mothers and women everywhere need to be mindful of throughout their lives.
Calcium: Calcium plays a key role in our bone health. It is recommended that women of ages 19-50 aim for 1000mg each day and women over 50 years old to aim for 1200mg daily. About 3 servings of low-fat dairy products will help to reach this goal. Calcium is also found in sardines, leafy green vegetables and almonds. Discuss supplementation of calcium with your doctor before taking.
Vitamin D: This vitamin is also known as the “sunshine vitamin” and for good reason! We synthesize vitamin D from sunlight. It is actually not found naturally in many foods besides fish and a small amount in eggs. Vitamin D is fortified in our dairy products which is great because it works together with calcium to keep our bones healthy. The recommendation is about 600IU each day. This might be something worth discussing with your doctor at your next check up as many people in our country tend to be vitamin D deficient.
Folic acid: This nutrient is key for preventing birth defects and it is recommended that all women of child bearing age supplement their diet with 400 micrograms per day along with eating foods high in folic acid which includes fruits and vegetables.
Fiber: The current recommendation for women is 25 grams of fiber daily. Fiber is important for our heart health, blood sugar control and even may help keep us fuller for longer. Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Some research shows that whole grains may be beneficial for easing menopause symptoms.
Vitamin B12: This vitamin is of particular interest for women (and men) over 50 years old. Vitamin B12 plays an important role in red blood cell production. Unfortunately, as we age we become less efficient at absorbing it. Fortunately, it can be found naturally in meat, fish, dairy and eggs, but a discussion with your doctor may be a good idea to see if you need to be supplementing it to your diet.
Physical Activity: Regular activity is important for our overall health. Maintaining a regular exercise pattern can be crucial during menopause as this is when maintaining physical activity can be most challenging. Aim for 30 minutes of activity at least 5 days each week. The good news is that this does not have to be 30 minutes in one chunk of time. You can break your full “30 minute exercise meal” up into “exercise snacks” of at least 10-15 minutes at a time and still reap the benefits. Try to find an activity that you enjoy. The key is get your heart rate elevated.