National Women’s Health Week, Part II

Being a registered dietitian, I have my own nutrition-related tips for women as we recognize National Women’s Health Week.Here are my go-to tips for women:

1. Maintain healthy weight --Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health and can help you prevent and control many diseases and conditions. This is something that many of us feel we can put off until a later time when we have “time” to get fit and eat right. But there is no better time than the present. If you are overweight or obese as a young adult or adult, you are at higher risk of developing serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems, and certain cancers down the road. Not only does maintaining a healthy weight lower your risk for developing these problems, but it also helps you feel good about yourself and gives you more energy to enjoy life.

2. Cut back on sugar -- Recent studies show a connection between a high sugar diet and dying of heart disease, even if you are not overweight. Although more research needs to be done to confirm these findings, there are plenty of other reasons to reduce sugar intake. Sugar is well known to cause cavities. Additionally, sugar delivers a large amount of calories in a small package, making it likely to gain weight. These calories are considered “empty calories”-- calories unaccompanied by fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. It is relatively easy for diet high in sugar to overcrowd healthier foods from a person’s diet. Sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks are by far the biggest sources of added sugar in the average American’s diet. They account for more than one-third of the added sugar we consume as a nation. So eliminating or reducing sugar-sweetened beverages is a good start to cutting back on sugar.

3. Get more fiber -- Current recommendations for fiber suggest consuming 25-35 grams per day however most Americans consume only 11 grams per day on average. That is far from enough! Dietary fiber, found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, is probably best known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. But foods containing fiber can provide other health benefits as well, such as helping to maintain a healthy weight and lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease. On the contrary, the effects of not getting enough fiber includes; increased risk of constipation which could lead to hemorrhoids and possibly gastrointestinal cancers, increased risk of heart disease, and increased risk of being overweight or obese. In order to meet current recommendations, be sure to include several servings of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains on a daily basis.

4. Eat or drink your probiotics -- Hippocrates once said, "Bad digestion is the root of all evil." Now, a growing body of research suggests that the ancient Greek physician was seriously onto something: Maintaining a healthy balance of "good" gut bacteria in the digestive tract is critical to overall health and well-being. Eat to beat disease by including a plethora of citrus fruits, fiber rich foods, leafy greens and yellow vegetables. And don’t forget to help the good bugs out by including yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, bananas, garlic, asparagus, and onions on a daily basis.

5. Eat breakfast, every day -- It’s true; breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Including this meal in the daily routine is a common denominator for successful weight loss and maintenance. The explanations for this observation include the possibility that breakfast does the following:

  • Suppresses midmorning hunger
  • Produces better blood glucose and elevates basal metabolic rate
  • Yields fewer episodes of imbalanced, impulsive, or excessive eating later in the day
  • Increases fiber intake (e.g., from cereals, fruits, and whole grains) Reduces dietary fat intake
  • Encourages improved health consciousness

About National Women’s Health Week

National Women’s Health Week is an observance led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. The goal is to empower women to make their health a priority. The week also serves as a time to help women understand what steps they can take to improve their health.