Nutritional Needs For Women
Nutritional requirements for certain females may need some further consideration. Females, just like men, need to have a healthy and balanced hormonal profile. The difference between males and females is that females will see greater fluctuations and variations of these hormones. This is largely due to the menstrual cycle, and the key hormones at play are oestrogen and progesterone. In general, good nutrition can be very important to females in balancing and controlling those hormones, including how regular this cycle is. Just like young persons, females (particularly active) can be commonly deficient in calcium and iron. The more active the female is, the greater chances of calcium and iron deficiency. Low intakes of both these minerals via the diet are the most common contributor to a deficiency, but it can also be caused by menstruation – related blood loss.
One of the most important health considerations for females is during pregnancy. At this time, the mother’s nutrition will not only be affecting her, but the baby too. Good food choices are a given i.e.: high nutrient, with a focus on whole single ingredient foods with healthy balanced protein, fats and carbohydrates. Further emphasis should be put on the reduction of processed and refined foods, as they offer little or no nutritional benefits to the consumer. When eating fish, it may be important to reduce this unless eating organically or Atlantic caught varieties. This is because of the potential heavy metal contamination these may carry.
A healthy weight should be seen throughout a pregnancy, and this is to encourage the optimal growth of the fetus.
If the mother is underweight or doesn’t gain weight to support the growing baby, this can result in low birth weight and/or delayed development. This can also have long-term consequences, even when the person reaches childhood.
During pregnancy it is important for the mother to increase daily calories by 300-500 kcals per day to support this increased energy demand. This is healthy and should be encouraged.
Weight gain during pregnancy varies greatly. Most pregnant women gain between 10kg and 12.5kg (22lbs to 26lb’s) putting most weight on after week 20.
Most of the weight gain will be due to the baby growing, but the body will also be storing fat, ready to make breast milk.
A balanced diet from all macronutrients should be a priority throughout pregnancy.
Adequate protein intake is a given and this is of particular importance during the second and third trimesters. At this stage the body is putting more protein towards the growth and development of the foetus and placenta.
Healthy fats should also be part of a balanced diet, again coming from the typical whole food choices. Omega 3 can become of greater importance during pregnancy as the active EPA and DHA has been shown to benefit infant brain development and reduce post partum depression in the mother after pregnancy.
Supplementation of a high quality Omega 3 liquid is a good option throughout the pregnancy. It should be noted not to supplement with any oil derived from the liver of the fish, due to the high levels of vitamin A in these that can lead to toxicity.
Carbohydrates should also be included in the diet. Throughout the pregnancy the body will want and need to make things grow i.e. the baby. As we know carbohydrates are very anabolic, they help things grow, creating an ideal environment for a developing baby.
Many pregnant females will also get cravings during this time, which can be perfectly normal. If this is for low nutrient processed foods then some restrictions may need to be applied. Pregnancy should not be an excuse to drastically overeat on poor food choices.
Aside from getting adequate micronutrients from high quality whole food choices, a good quality multivitamin and mineral pack may be beneficial to reduce any potential for deficits.
There are also a number of micronutrients that should be included and perhaps even increased during pregnancy. There are:
A condition called ‘pre-eclampsia’ can occur in pregnant women if calcium levels are too low. Symptoms are high blood pressure, protein in the urine and swelling of body parts. Aside from high calcium foods, supplementing with the RDA is advisable. Vitamin D supplementation (or sun exposure) will also ensure adequate calcium absorption.
Females are commonly low in iron and it can be even more important to have adequate levels throughout pregnancy.
Vitamin B9 is important throughout the early stages of pregnancy as it can help reduce the potential of ‘neural tube defects’ that can affect the brain and spine of the foetus. A folic acid supplement is typically recommended.
It is important to ensure adequate levels of zinc throughout the pregnancy to support the ongoing growth of the baby. A deficiency may lead to congenital malformations such as heart defects, limb defects or Down-syndrome.
This vitamin is mainly found in animal meats and is important for cell development. If the mother is following a low to no meat diet, supplementation is essential.
Nutritional Needs For Older People
Many nutrition coaches fail to see the importance of good nutrition for older women, women in perimenopause, etc.. This is wrong, as it is equally important that active older adults adequately fuel themselves to boost health markers and to help them continue to maintain and build muscle mass.
ENERGY REQUIREMENTS In general, older people see a decline in their daily energy requirements, mainly due to reduced activity level and muscle mass loss. This could therefore be offset by maintain activity levels and undertaking exercise to maintain and develop muscle mass, such as weight training. MACRONUTRIENTS Just like with energy requirement there are no separate suggestions for daily macronutrient intake for older people. An all round balanced macronutrient diet is important, with a primary focus on high quality single ingredient foods. One study found that an RDI of 0.8g/kg/day of protein was enough to maintain muscle mass in active weight training older people. Other studies on perimenopausal and menopausal women aim for 1g of protein per pound of body weight per day.
Ie: a 150 pound woman should aim for 150 grams of protein a day.
MICRONUTRIENTS Vitamin D and calcium are of utmost importance for this age group, as they are both linked to bone health. It is common for this group to be deficient in these minerals, which can lead to increased rates of bone loss. Calcium can help reduce this and combat the effects of bone resorption. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and bone mineralization. A deficiency in this vitamin can lead to osteomalacia, which is the softening of the bones. Older people also have a higher rate of deficiency of the vitamin due to decreased synthesis and a decrease in conversion of vitamin D to its active form by the kidneys. As we know, it is very difficult to receive the RDA’s of vitamin D via our foods and due to lack of sun depending on where you live and therefore supplementation is advisable.
HYDRATION Hydration levels are also important, as older people can be prone to dehydration. This is due to changes in thirst mechanisms and thermoregulation, which is caused by a decrease in blood volume, a reduction in renal water conservation capacity and changes in sodium to water balance in the body. On an extreme level, these physiological changes can lead to an increase in plasma sodium concentrations greater than 145mEq/L, caused by excessive loss of water and electrolytes. This is known as hypernatremia, and for older people, age related decreased thirst levels might be the primary cause. Certain medical conditions and/or their related medications can also lead to hypernatremia. Hydration is therefore extremely important in older people, particularly those participating in sport or physical activities. If hypernatremia occurs, it may be treated through the replacement of lost fluids.
PERSONALIZED NUTRITION SUPPORT
To receive more personalized support to identify your nutrition needs please reach out and schedule a Discovery Call to chat. Often the missing key to thriving with age and in perimenopause is not having a plan or knowing what's best for you to ensure you're getting the right balance of macronutrients you need to ensure you keep bone density and lean muscle mass and have the energy and ability to continue to be strong, independent and boost your immunity and improve sleep.
Alternatively you may want to check out the Meal Club Membership, Nutrition Coaching or a health and wellness coaching plan.