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The word food brings to our mind countless images. Food is associated not only with health but also worship, with celebration, with family and community feasting. It is closely interwoven with every feature of our existence. It sustains us, it nourishes us. Eating the proper kinds of food in right amounts is essential to keep us healthy. In other words, our health is dependent on our eating pattern. It is also important to eat the right food at right time. The article is about diet plan for women
Women have different daily nutritional requirements than men. This is because women and men have different bodies as well as bodily (physiological) functions. Psyche is also a factor that affects food and nutritional requirement. An average woman eats less than an average man. This is a generalised assumption or a fact. The daily intake i.e. diet of a person depends on various factors. Before understanding these factors it important to understand the physiological role of food.
Physiological functions of food:
- Energy giving
- Body building
- Protective and regulatory
1. Energy giving function:
We need energy every moment of our lives for performing various types of activities such as sitting, standing, walking, doing house-hold chores etc. Several activities that take place within the body e.g. beating of heart, expansion/contraction of lungs, contraction of intestines, etc. also need energy. This is provided by food. Food rich in carbohydrates and fats provide energy by burning them like fuel in our body.
2. Body building function:
Food is also needed for growth and repair. Growth takes place when new cells are added to the existing ones. Existing cells also increase in size. On the other hand, when the cells worn out and die, they are replaced and repaired. For this, proteins are necessary.
3. Protective and regulatory functions:
Protective refers to the role in preventing infection by ensuring proper functioning of the body systems responsible for fighting infections. Regulatory functions like maintaining body temperature, contraction of muscles, blood pressure, etc. are regulated by minerals and vitamins.
Diet Plan for Women
What is a diet plan?
To understand diet plan one must know what a balanced diet is. Balanced diet is such a diet that is nutritionally adequate and includes foods from all food groups in proper proportions. Diet plan is basically a plan to design balanced diet: What to eat, how much to eat and when to eat.
What to eat?
The best way to decide this is by selecting foods from different food groups in proper amounts so that the diet is nutritionally adequate. Women should select different food items from the above mentioned food groups.
1. Carbohydrate rich foods:
There should be at least one food item from this group. Carbohydrate rich food items like wheat, rice, millets, roots and tubers, some fruits, sugar, jaggery etc. are great sources of energy. In staple diet of the US ‘breads’ made from wheat flour and boiled rice are included for this purpose only. ‘Pasta’ is also made from wheat or semolina flour which is a carb source.
2. Protein rich food:
Proteins are important to build muscles and absorption of various nutrients. In fact, enzymes which are biocatalysts are also proteins. List of protein rich foods is vast and includes milk, milk products (like yogurt, cottage cheese, curd), flesh foods (meat, fish, poultry), eggs, nuts and oilseeds, and pulses. Among pulses, soyabean is particularly rich in protein. Americanan population is vasstly non-vegetarian. Flesh foods are consumed in large amounts and hence protein rich diet is consumed.
Fat rich foods:
3. The term fat is usually associated in our minds with a substance which is harmful for health. It is usually considered to make us overweight. This is a negative view about fats. Fats play a crucial role in providing energy and insulation to the body. Problems only arise if and when you take fats in excess amounts. Sources include vegetable oil, butter, oils like mustard oil, groundnut oil, soya oil, coconut oil, etc.
4. Foods rich in minerals:
Minerals like calcium, phosphorus, etc. are macro-minerals while iodine, iron, etc. are trace minerals. Different minerals have different regulatory functions in our body. E.g. good bone health, transport of oxygen, pH maintenance of fluids, etc. Calcium is found in milk, phosphorus and iron in green leafy vegetables, sodium and iodine in salts, etc.
Water is the basic medium for all the fluids in the body. It also maintains body temperature and helps in transport of various substances. Water is taken up by the body through normal drinking water, beverages, vegetables, fruits and various cooked items.
6. Fibre rich foods:
Fibre doesn’t get digested in human digestive system still it is an important component of diet. This is because it helps in maintaining bowel movements and proper digestion by absorbing water. Various vegetables, fruits and whole grain cereals and pulses are rich sources of fibre.
Vitamins are necessary for various functions like vision, immunity, wound recovery, blood clotting, bone health etc. They are obtained from various fruits, vegetables, flesh products, milk and milk products, sea food, animals organs, etc.
How much to eat?
Now that we know what to eat it is important to know how much is necessary to eat daily. According to international drug mart- Recommended Daily allowance for an average adult American woman (reference woman) is given below:
(first 6 months)
(second 6 months)
|Vitamin A (ug)||800||800||800||800||800||800||1300||1200|
|Vitamin D (ug)||10||10||10||5||5||10||10||10|
|Vitamin E (mg)||8||8||8||8||8||10||12||11|
|Vitamin K (ug)||45||55||60||60||60||65||65||65|
|Vitamin C (mg)||50||60||60||60||60||70||95||90|
|Vitamin B6 (ug)||1.4||1.5||1.6||1.6||1.6||2.2||2.1||2.1|
|Vitamin B12 (mg)||2||2||2||2||2||2.2||2.6||2.6|
One must consume foods such that the above recommended dietary intakes are obtained by the body. It is important to take the right amount of nutrients for the well-being of the woman
When to eat?
Most women eat 2 to 3 times a day. Women with bust schedules tend to eat more quantity in lesser amount of meals. This is not good for health. Meal frequency is dependent on the schedule of the person concerned. It is always better to eat less at regular or rather frequent intervals.
It encouraged to have breakfast in the morning. Breakfast is considered to be the most important meal of the day. Breakfast should be such that 1/3 of required amount of daily energy is obtained by it. Mid-morning meal should be light and may include fruits and salads. Lunch should be heavier than dinner but lighter than breakfast if mid-morning meal is taken. Evening snacks should be taken if they are healthy. Junk food is a big no. Dinner shouldn’t be too heavy being the last meal of the day. Our body doesn’t utilise much energy in sleep so one must be careful about it. Eating late at night is almost always harmful to the body.
Factors affecting diet plan:
Diet depends on sex, age, height, weight, activity level, region, body composition, health conditions and even economic and religious factors. Women have different needs and thus their food habits are different than men. Some factors that impact diet plan:
Women aged 13-45 have menstruation cycle. They lose a lot of blood every month. Along with blood there is a loss of iron in the form of haemoglobin in the menstrual flow. Women in this age group need more iron rich food than even men to compensate the loss of iron.
After the age of 30 there is a loss of bone density due to lack of Calcium. Therefore women from age 30 and above should have high intake of calcium in their diet.
These are only a few examples. There are many other impacts of age on diet.
2. Activity level:
Activity levels are divided in three types:
- Sedentary: Women who do most of their work sitting at one place. E.g. teachers, seamstresses, typists, clerks, office executives, housewives who have household help. Women belonging to this activity level group need less energy giving food. Their food shouldn’t contain too much carbs.
- Moderate: Moderate work includes the kind of work where one uses both hands and legs but not too strenuously. E.g. housemaids, agricultural laborers, housewives who do most of their work themselves.
- Heavy: If she is involved in hard strenuous work using hands and feet continuously for long period every day she is said to be doing heavy work. High-carb diet is needed. In fact higher amount of fats can also be included in the diet.
As the activity level increases not only the amount of carbs and fats but also the amount of vitamin B increases. Vitamin B (complex) helps in digestion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
3. Body composition:
The energy and protein requirement of women is lower than that of the man of same age and activity level. The basic difference lies in body size/composition. In case of men, body has more active tissues such as muscles. The women on other hand have more of the relatively inactive fat tissue.
4. Economic factor:
It is quite obvious that women belonging to high income group have different diets than women belonging to low income group. This is because money can provide easy availability to various kinds of food. High income group can enjoy healthier food with a lot of variety. Low income group has to manage with whatever resources they have.
5. Health Conditions:
If a woman is pregnant or lactating, she needs more energy, proteins and even iron and calcium. This is because the growing fetus depends on its mother for nutrients and hence the different diet for pregnancy. Anemic women need more iron rich foods in their diets. Thus, even health conditions affect diet plan of women.
Diet is not simple as it seems at first glance. To know what a woman must eat she must be aware of her physiology. There are registered dietitians and nutritionists that can help to plan a diet chart according to specific needs and characteristics of a woman.
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