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Nutrition For Women

Introduction

Good nutrition is one of the key components of well being and overall health for women. A woman’s body undergoes several physiological and biological changes at various stages of her life, particularly during vulnerable and critical phases such as adolescence, pregnancy, breastfeeding and old age.

These physiological changes along with the diverse roles of women as mothers, wives, workers and community members require unique nutritional support. By maintaining good nutritional intake, a woman is able to prevent or reduce the risk of health problems such as anaemia, osteoporosis and chronic diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and heart disease.

 

What are the physiological changes that influence women’s nutritional needs ?

  1. Teens :
    • At this age, young women experience puberty, rapid body growth and menstruation. Special attention must be paid to their dietary intake of important nutrients such as iron and calcium as well as the amount of calories.
  1. Pre-pregnancy :
    • Women’s bodies require vital nutrients in preparation for pregnancy.
  1. Pregnancy :
    • At this stage, there is an increase in nutritional requirements to accommodate foetal growth and prepare for breastfeeding.
  1. Lactation / Breastfeeding :
    • Nutritional demands are increased for the production of adequate high-quality breast milk.
  1. Menopouse :
    • Women are at risk for developing chronic diseases caused by hormonal changes. Bone fragility (osteoporosis) may also occur.

 

What are the nutritional needs for an adult woman?

Table : Nutrient Needs For Women by Age

Age
(years)
Calorie
(kcal/day)
Protein
(g/day)
Calcium
(mg/day)
Iron *
(mg/day)
Iodin
(µg/day)
Zinc
(mg/day)
Folic Acid
(µg/day)
19 – 29
2000
 
 
55
800
29
 
 
 
110
 
 
 
4.9
 
 
 
 
400
30 – 50
2180
800
29
51- 59
2180
1000
11
60 – 65
1780
 
51
1000
11
> 65
1780
1000
11
98
4.3

                          * 10% bioavailability

Age
(years)
Thiamine
(mg/day)
Riboflavin
(mg/day)
Niacin
(mg NE/day)
 Vit A
(µg/day)
Vit C
(mg/day)
Vit D
(µg/day)
Vit E
(mg/day)
19 – 29
 
 
 
 
1.1
 
 
 
 
1.1
 
 
 
 
1.4
 
 
 
500
 
 
 
 
 
70
5
 
 
 
 
 
7.5
30 – 50
5
51 – 59
10
60 – 65
10
>65
600
15

Sumber : Recommended Nutrients Intake for Malaysia (RNI), 2005

 

How can women remain fit and healthy by practising good nutrition ?

  1. Eat according to the recommended calorie needs.
  • Eating according to the recommended daily calories is important to avoid undernutrition or overnutrition problems such as obesity.
  • Daily calorie intake should be balanced with daily physical activity. Unused calories from food will be stored as fat in the body and may lead to overweight or obesity problems.
  • Obesity is one of the major risk factors for chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and heart disease.
 
  1. Eat daily diet based on the Malaysian Food Pyramid.
  • Choose foods based on the combination of the basic food groups in the Malaysian Food Guide Pyramid.
  • The Malaysian Food Pyramid is a simple guide for individuals that vary according to the amount of recommended daily food calories.
  • Consume the right portions of food at each meal as per recommended calorie needs.

 

Malaysian Food Pyramid

 

  1. Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Achieve or maintain a healthy weight according to the normal range in the Body Mass Index (BMI).
  • Prevent obesity as a means of reducing the risk for chronic diseases.
  • Being underweight may also affect women’s health.
  • If you are underweight, increase your body weight by increasing food intake and doing exercise to help increase appetite.
  • If you are overweight, increase physical activity to burn fat in the body and avoid high-calorie foods such as foods high in sugar, fat and oil as well as fried foods.
  • Seek the advice of a nutritionist or a doctor if you have weight problems.

Table : Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI Range
(kg/m2)

Weight Status

Risk of co-morbidities

? 18.5 Less weight Low (may increased by other clinical problem)
18.5 – 24.9 Normal body Normal
25 – 29.9 Overweight Increased
? 30 Obese High

Source : World Health Organisation (WHO), 1990

 

  1. Maintain an active lifestyle.
  • Increase your daily activities to burn the calories consumed.
  • Avoid sedentary activities (which do not burn adequate calories) such as watching television, using the computer for prolonged periods and using the escalator or lift.
  • An active lifestyle can prevent the occurrence of overweight problems or obesity. Besides that, it also helps us stay fit.
  • In order to be more active, do these following activities at any time :
    • Take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator.
    • Walk to shops, places of worship or around the house instead of driving.
    • Engage in household chores such as sweeping and mopping the floor, doing laundry by hand and others.
    • Park your vehicle a little further away and walk to destination.
    • Gardening activities such as planting flowers, vegetables and moving the flower pots.

 

  1. Pay attention to certain nutrients that are important to women.
  • Some Some nutrients are particularly important to women and insufficient intake may interfere with their health.
  • These nutrients are: –
    • Iron :
      • Plays an important role in oxygen transportation from the lungs to other organs.
      • It is also needed for the formation of haemoglobin or red blood cells.
      • Iron deficiency can cause anaemia, a condition characterised by lack of red blood cells in the body.
      • The need for iron is increased during pregnancy and lactation.
      • Sources of iron can be found in foods such as red meat, liver, shellfish and green leafy vegetables
    •  
    • Folic Acid :
      • Very important for women, particularly in preparation for pregnancy.
      • Folic acid deficiency may cause foetal defects.
      • It is also needed for the formation of red blood cells and coenzymes for the synthesis of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA).
      • Foods high in folic acid are liver, milk, red meat, whole grains and green leafy vegetables.
    •  
    • Calcium :
      • Very important for bone health.
      • Lack of calcium causes bones to become porous, leading to an increased risk of fractures or osteoporosis.
      • Among food sources rich in calcium is milk.
      • Consume at least 1-3 servings of milk or dairy products such as cheese or yoghurt every day.
 
 

References :

  1. KPWKM & NSM (2006). Wanita & Pemakanan : Panduan Profesional Kesihatan. Kementerian Pembangunan Wanita, Keluarga & Masyarakat dan Persatuan Pemakanan Malaysia.
  2. KKM (2010). Panduan Diet Malaysia. Bahagian Pemakanan Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia, Putrajaya.
  3. WHO (1998). Obesity : Prevention and managing the global epidemic. Report of a WHO Consultation on Obesity. World Health Organization, Geneva.
  4. NCCFN (2005). Recommended Nutrient Intakes for Malaysia, A Report of the Technical Working Group on Nutritional Guidelines. National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition, Ministry of Health, Putrajaya.

 

Last reviewed : 23 April 2013
Translator : Zuhaida binti Harun