A woman's body has unique nutritional requirements, which can be easily met by choosing the right kinds of food. And there are plenty of foods that are packed with nutrients specifically beneficial to women. Here we list five of them.
Soy contains isoflavones and has an antioxidant property. It is also a rich source of proteins and therefore extremely healthy for vegetarians. Soy also has good amounts of vitamins B-complex, minerals like calcium and iron and fibre.
Soybeans are versatile and can be used in the form of whole beans, sprouts, milk, tofu, tempeh [soybean patty], sauce, flour or miso [soybean paste].
Soy milk, readily available in the market, is easy-to-use and comes in different flavours—the most common being the chocolate flavour. Soy milk is lactose-free [milk sugar] and therefore can also be consumed by people who are lactose intolerant.
Tofu or soy cheese/curd/paneer is a bland-tasting product, which absorbs the flavour of other ingredients. There are three types of tofu available—firm, soft and silken. Tofu can be stored up to three months in the refrigerator but the texture becomes more chewy and harder.
Soy flour is rich in calcium, proteins and fibre along with the isoflavones. Overall, soy lowers cholesterol, prevents cancer [especially breast cancer], regulates female hormones that are beneficial during menopause and prevents osteoporosis.
Preferred intake: 25g of soy daily.
Also known as finger millet, ragi is rich in proteins, essential amino acids, vitamin A, B, fibre and phosphorous. Ragi also contains high amounts of calcium and iron having no parallel among cereals for these minerals.
Ragi is good for children, pregnant and lactating women due to its high calcium and iron content. The fibre lowers cholesterol, maintains blood sugar levels and aids in weight loss. It also regulates the digestive system and prevents constipation. It also has a high glycemic index and is good for people with diabetes.
According to ayurveda, ragi is an excellent antacid and helps in improving blood production.
Ragi can be consumed as rotis or bhakris, biscuits, khakra, chivda or cookies or as you may like.
Preferred intake: Replace wheat with ragi to make rotis thrice a week.
Flaxseeds are commonly available; unfortunately, they are not made best use of. Flaxseeds are not grains but have a nutrient composition similar to that of grains. They are rich in B-vitamins, fibre, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese and omega-3 fatty acids—all these nutrients are extremely important for a woman's body.
Flaxseeds also have a low-carbohydrate value. Due to the healthy combination of fat and fibre in this seed, it helps in weight loss by increasing satiety.
Flaxseeds have also shown beneficial effects in reducing cholesterol and maintaining a healthy heart due to its omega-3 fatty acid content. The fibre in flaxseeds helps in regulating the digestive system and stabilising blood sugar levels. Flaxseeds contain phytochemicals, which act as antioxidants and helps regulates female hormones.
Flaxseeds need to be roasted, pound and then consumed to achieve the overall benefits. It can be stored after roasting for a period of three months, as longer duration could lead to rancidity [spoilage].
Keep these tips in mind when using flaxseeds:
- Drink plenty of water while consuming flaxseeds, as the excessive fibre could lead to constipation
- Sprinkle on salad, vegetables, dals
- Powder it and use with curd/yogurt or buttermilk.
Preferred intake: 1 tsp daily.
Broccoli looks similar to a cauliflower but has much smaller florets. It is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories, and high in dietary fibre, vitamins A, E, C, K, potassium, selenium and phosphorous.
It aids in digestion and due to its antioxidant properties prevents occurrences of harmful diseases. Research shows that broccoli aids in maintaining the heart of post-menopausal women. It also helps balance female hormones.
Broccoli can be consumed raw in the form of a salad or as a stir-fried vegetable. The best part is that it can be stored in the refrigerator for many days. When buying broccoli always buy green-coloured broccoli and not yellow-coloured as yellowing refers to an old broccoli floret.
Preferred intake: A small floret or two, thrice a week.
5. Green tea
Green tea can be used to treat a host of illnesses—right from headache to depression. It is rich in catechins polyphenols, which are a rich source of antioxidants. In contrast to the regular black tea, green tea is made by steaming, which in turn locks the beneficial polyphenols.
Overall, green tea reduces cholesterol and blood sugar levels, increases metabolic rate, balances females hormone, protects the heart against cardiovascular diseases, aids in rheumatoid arthritis and fights infection.
The best time to drink green tea is in the morning and mid-evening. Beware of drinking too much as it can cause insomnia.
Preferred intake: Two cups every day. Avoid having green tea at bed time; its caffeine content will keep you awake.
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