As a woman, you are swarmed with several roles and responsibilities in daily life including taking care of your children or elderly parents, family obligations, work responsibilities, and other roles. With busier lives, you are under more stress and unable to focus on a healthy lifestyle and diet. As a result, you are more vulnerable to major infections and diseases. 

It is important to understand that your body goes through a world of changes, from menarche, through pregnancy and then menopause. Menarche is your first menstrual bleeding (monthly discharge of your uterine walls through the vagina which is also called periods), that starts around the age of 11 or 13. Pregnancy is the period when a baby-to-be develops inside your womb (a hollow, pear-shaped organ located in your lower abdomen). Menopause is the natural stopping or cessation of your menstrual cycle.

Leading a stressful lifestyle with no or little focus on your diet and exercise needs will prove to be harmful in the long-run and can deteriorate your overall health and quality of life. As the stress becomes chronic and excessive, you will have to deal with negative outcomes like headaches, tiredness, sleep disturbances, difficulty in sleeping, skin problems, drug and alcohol abuse, overeating and undereating, loss of interest in sexual activities, back and neck pain, obesity (excessive accumulation of fat in your abdomen) and high blood pressure (hypertension). 

Your diet plays a significant role in helping you beat stress and stay healthy. The need to treat your health as a priority and nurture yourself with the right diet should start from today! 

Before we dive into some tips on how to lose weight, let us quickly understand the concept of body mass index (BMI).

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body Mass Index (BMI) is your weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness. Standard BMI levels for women are:

  • A BMI of less than 18.5 indicates that you are underweight

  • A BMI between 18.5–24.9 means that you have a healthy weight

  • A BMI of 25-29.9 indicates that you are slightly overweight

  • A BMI above 30 is considered obese

Here are 10 diet tips that you can follow for a healthy lifestyle:

1. Watch your weight. A BMI (Body Mass Index) ranking of 18.5-24.9 is considered normal and indicates a healthy weight. BMI

  • Eat a well-balanced diet that consists of fresh fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lean meats, and fatty acids.

  • Avoid gorging on salty, sugary, processed, and refined foods and aerated drinks that help in putting on weight.

  • Along with the right diet and the right portion sizes, exercising daily for 30 minutes will help you keep your weight in check.

2. Drink enough water. Staying hydrated flushes out the toxins from your body and helps in the detoxification process of your body. It is an indispensable tool to defer aging, minimize skin problems & keep menstruation woes (such as painful cramps, bloating, irritability, etc.) at bay.

  • Drink a minimum of 2 liters of water every day.

  • You can also add fresh fruit juices, coconut water, green or herbal teas, smoothies and shakes to your daily diet to ensure enough fluid intake.

  • Eat fruits (such as peaches, oranges, grapefruit, berries) and vegetables (tomatoes, spinach, cucumber, broccoli, sprouts) that are rich in water content.

3. Limit your caffeine intake. About 400 mg of caffeine intake per day is considered safe for most women. Excess caffeine (in the form of tea or coffee) can have a negative impact on your fertility (the natural ability to get pregnant) and pregnancy. 

  • Too much caffeine is the leading cause of headaches and migraine (a type of severe headache) in most women, especially after 50 years of age.

  • In women between the age groups 25 to 40, excess caffeine can easily enter the placenta (an organ that develops in your uterus during pregnancy) and increase the risk of miscarriage (loss of your baby before the 20th week of pregnancy).

It is advisable to opt for alkaline foods like fruits and salads (not juices and soups), instead of tea and coffee. 

4. Maintain a healthy lipid profile. Lipids, commonly known as fats, oils, and waxes are organic compounds that make the building blocks of the structure and function of your body’s cells. A lipid profile or lipid panel is a group of blood tests that serves as an initial screening tool for abnormalities in lipids, such as cholesterol and triglycerides.

Eating the right and healthy fats will keep your lipid profile in check and are essential to prevent dryness of your vagina (an elastic, muscular organ of your reproductive system) and to keep your skin supple and soft. 

  • Eat healthful-fats such as walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, fatty fish, dark chocolate, nuts, and virgin olive oil to keep your lipid profile in check.

  • Avoid saturated fats (a type of unhealthy dietary fat). Foods like butter, palm and coconut oils, cheese, and red meat have high amounts of saturated fat.

5. Replenish your calcium and vitamin D levels. Calcium plays a vital role in the growth and maintenance of your healthy bones and reduces the risk of osteoporosis (a condition in which your bones are weak and brittle). Osteoporosis is more common in older women. 

Vitamin D plays a significant role in the regulation of calcium and maintenance of phosphorus levels in your blood. Vitamin D allows better absorption of calcium and thus it is important to maintain vitamin D levels too.

  • Ajwain, til, khus- khus, rajgira, ragi, rajma, green leafy vegetables, milk, and yogurt contains loads of calcium. 

  • Soak in the sun for about 15 to 20 minutes daily for vitamin D. You can also take vitamin D supplements after checking with your doctor. 

6. Boost the haemoglobin levels in your blood. Haemoglobin is a protein in your red blood cells (RBCs) that carries oxygen to your body's organs and tissues. Iron, folate, and copper are all that is needed for the formation of this red pigment in your blood. 

  • Iron plays an important role in haemoglobin production. A protein called transferrin binds to iron and transports it throughout the body. This helps your body make red blood cells, which contain haemoglobin. Good sources of iron are liver, red meat, beans, nuts, soybean flour, etc. 

  • Folate or folic acid is needed for the formation of haemoglobin in RBCs. Include peas, sprouts, beans, and green leafy vegetables for your folate requirements.

  • Copper is needed for haemoglobin formation and also for absorbing iron from your blood. The richest dietary copper sources include shellfish, seeds and nuts, organ meats, wheat-bran cereals, whole-grain products, and chocolate.

7. Know what to eat before, during, and after your period. 

  • Eat light, easy-to-digest, nutritious and balanced meals, including beans and legumes, fish, leafy greens, and fruits, before your period.

  • Again, it is recommended to eat light meals and small portions while you are on your period. 

  • Once you are through your period week, eat a balanced diet filled with nutrition. 

Besides these, drink a lot of water, avoid fatty foods and strong teas before and during your periods.

8. Eat well for healthy hair and glowing skin. Unhealthy diets can result in sudden hair loss and thinning. A diet that consists of highly processed food, ready meals, and refined carbohydrates can aggravate skin problems such as acne (pimples).

  • Eat fresh coconut, cucumber, melons, red bell peppers, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, and garlic for awesome shiny hair and flawless skin.

9. Pickup pro-health foods. Probiotics are made up of good bacteria that help keep your body healthy and working well. This good bacteria helps you in many ways, including fighting off bad bacteria and keeping your digestive health in check. 

  • Eat probiotics like yogurt, pickles & prebiotics (foods high in fiber are high in prebiotics) rich food like garlic, raw & cooked onions, wheat bran, rice bran, oat bran & raw banana.

10. Mind the menopause menace. One of the most common symptoms of menopause is hot flashes. A hot flash is a feeling of intense warmth that isn't caused by an external source. Women in menopausal age (in the age of 40s or 50s) are recommended foodstuffs containing phytoestrogens. 

Phytoestrogens are plant nutrients found in several different types of food such as soy products, grains, beans, and some fruits and vegetables. Phytoestrogens help relieve uncomfortable symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, mood swings, and a decreased libido (sexual drive).

To summarize, the two most important keys to a healthy lifestyle is a nutritious diet and staying active. In the earlier days, the daily chores of women would take care of the much-needed exercises and physical activity. Modern-day women miss out on these due to a mechanized or sedentary lifestyle.

Be positive, patient & persistent. Eat a well-balanced diet, take care and enjoy the quintessential womanhood that you are born with!

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.