Eat smart

You probably know a bit about nutrition at this point and have most likely tried dieting to lose weight a few times, too. You know what you should be doing to stay healthy, but choosing those options can be hard when you’re so busy. Instead of going over nutrition information in detail, we are going to talk about what you need most to keep those eating habits in shape. To learn more about basic nutrition, click here.

Fruits and veggies: More matters! Fruits and veggies provide the unrivaled combination of great taste and nutrition; they are nature’s perfect convenience food! Eating lots of fruits and veggies is the cornerstone of a healthy diet. Research shows that women who eat lots of fruits and veggies weigh less and have lower risks of some diseases.

The nutrients you need most during this time of your life are fiber, calcium, folic acid and nutrient-rich low-calorie foods. As your metabolism slows down, your cholesterol and blood pressure can go up, putting you at higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Taking measures to protect your heart, bones and digestive system now will help prevent health problems in the future.

Protecting your heart should be a priority. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. and it is often preventable. Making sure your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight stay in check are three important ways to reduce your risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that soy products be used in a diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and lean meats. Omega-3 amino acids found in flax seeds and fatty fish are also reported to stave off heart disease1; if you are pregnant, Omega-3’s may play a role in the brain development and visual acuity of your unborn baby.

Keep getting adequate fiber, too. Fiber may help lower your blood cholesterol and blood pressure while also playing a role in preventing obesity. The American Dietetic Association recommends 25 grams of fiber per day2. It is estimated that most Americans only consume half of that amount. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds are the best sources of fiber. Luckily, foods high in fiber are usually low in calories and fat while being packed with vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients.

Your calcium intake is more important now, too. Adequate calcium can help prevent osteoporosis. As you get older, your bones don’t make new bone quickly enough to keep up with the bone loss. After menopause, bone loss increases more quickly. Since bones are made of calcium, the best way to prevent osteoporosis is to get enough calcium in your diet every day. Generally, you need between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams per day. You can get it through foods and/or calcium pills available from the drug store.

Vitamin D also helps your body take in calcium. Vitamin D is measured in international units (IU); you need about 600 IU per day3. You can get vitamin D through sunlight and foods like milk. You need 10-15 minutes of sunlight to the hands, arms and face two to three times a week to get the proper amount of vitamin D. The amount of time depends on how sensitive your skin is to light, use of sunscreen, skin color and pollution. You can also get vitamin D by eating foods or taking multivitamins.

Additionally, if you are still capable of becoming pregnant, you will need 400 mcg of folic acid every day to help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine. Some studies also show that folic acid might help with Alzheimer’s disease, forgetfulness, cognitive decline and age-related hearing loss. So even if you are not in your childbearing years, you can still benefit from folic acid. Check out our folic acid section for more information on how folic acid helps women of all ages.

Sources:

  1. The American Heart Association: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4632

  2. The American Dietetic Association: http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6796

  3. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-QuickFacts/

Revised: June 7, 2011

This web site is designed for informational use only; it is not designed to give advice, diagnose, cure or treat any medical condition you may have. If you have any questions about your health, please contact your health care provider.