Female Diet is a diet customized to meet the exclusive requirements of a woman going through particular stages in her life- adolescence, adulthood, pregnancy, lactation, menopause and aging. At every stage in her life, a woman is challenged with unlimited responsibilities and a specialised diet and exercise regimen can help in a big way to promote her wellbeing and optimize her health status in order to maximize her potential.
The body constitution of females is different from males and so are their dietary needs and health requirements. Women are known to be more affected by constitutional obesity that is a hereditary condition, present during infancy and that may be carried forward if not taken care of early in life. As such the percentage of adipose (fat) tissues is greater in females than in males.
Features of the Female Diet
- In their growing years, carbohydrates are essential as a source of energy to keep young girls active and as such the tendency is to burn calories rather than accumulating it as fat, particularly because of an active lifestyle involving various sports and activities. However as females cross a particular age the tendency is towards storing much of the carbohydrate consumed by converting it into fat stores. This is when it becomes crucial for the female to cut down carbohydrate intake especially the simple sugars that may lead to health problems if not controlled. Complex carbohydrates must form major part of the carbohydrate intake in females as fibre is a very critical component to help in weight maintenance, cholesterol as well as blood sugar control.
- Protein intake is important at each and every stage, for tissue development during the growing years and for repair and regeneration in the later years of a woman’s life. Even other high-protein requiring stages need to be adequately supplemented such as pregnancy and lactation when the protein intake needs to be consciously increased to meet the growing fetal demands. Hormonal balance is in a very delicate condition during these crucial phases of a female’s life and proteins are central to this as well.
- Fats are essential for insulation of the delicate human organs and form a concentrated energy source; they also help absorb the fat soluble vitamins. This is true for all age groups. Among elderly women, the unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) have a positive impact in maintaining cholesterol levels as they tend to increase the good cholesterol. Consumption of six-ounce servings of fresh-water fish thrice every week, specifically salmon, trout, white tuna, halibut, or mackerel provides greater than 1,000 milligrams of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oils reportedly slow down cartilage degeneration and reduce inflammation. But at any stage total fat intake should be limited as there is a tendency to gain weight and develop disease conditions if fat intake is not suitably controlled.
- Vitamins and Minerals are important during all stages for normal body functions.
- As youngsters’ adequate intake (at least 2 eight ounce glasses) of Vitamin D fortified low-fat milk would provide nearly 600 mg of Calcium and 5 micrograms of Vitamin D. This would strengthen bones by accruing sufficient calcium reserves that the body can use later on. Magnesium and phosphorus also have specific roles to play. This is true especially because post-menopause hormonal changes could lead to development of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Even in pregnancy and during lactation, supplementation with these nutrients is crucial to cater to increased needs.
- Iron deficiency Anemia is a common concern among adolescent girls. Blood losses that may accompany abortions or delivery also bring about a depletion of body iron stores. To make up for these losses sufficient Iron supplementation becomes necessary during these stages.
- Folic acid and Vitamin C are administered to females right from the time they conceive a child right up to delivery.
- Breastfeeding women need to consume energy providing foods especially those that are good sources of folic acid, iodine, zinc and calcium.
- Post-menopausal women experience a great deal of discomfort owing to hormonal changes. Calcium supplements in combination with a high fibre, low sodium, low fat diet is advisable including foods with high phytoestrogen content like soy milk, tofu in order to reduce typical symptoms like hot flushes etc. Depression can be overcome by consumption of flaxseed oil that is the most potent source of alpha-linolenic acid [ALA] or evening primrose oil.
- Antioxidants have potential to deal with the effects such as skin damage caused by pollution and sun exposure. Hence plenty of antioxidant rich foods need to be included in the female diet.
Dietary requirements keep changing as a female goes through various important physiological phases of life – adolescence, pregnancy, lactation, menopause - each posing its own nutritional challenges. However, a well-balanced nutrient-dense diet is ideally recommended for all age groups coupled with a suitable exercise routine.