Everyone should eat healthily, but there are some foods that can protect women against disease as they age. These superfoods are full of nutrients that will protect your body and keep it in good shape as you get older.
Activist and mother, Tantaswa Ndlelana (50), from Lower Crossroads in Cape Town, says there are a lot of things women can do to keep healthy, such as exercise. She made running her hobby when she was just a little girl.
“I no longer run for competitions now. To me it is very vital for a woman’s body because as we become older, so our bodies grow weaker.”
Fuel for your body
Before Ndlelana exercises or goes out walking, she eats a banana or oats without milk.
“Running has made me pay attention to small things that are now a part of the recuperation process, like breathing the fresh air first thing in the morning, communicating with nature; specifically if you jog in places where there are lots of trees, or hiking.
“Another good breakfast and snack is an apple smeared with peanut butter. I have learned that the apple and banana combo is loaded with nutrients that promote your health in a variety of ways, which include decreasing inflammation, promoting heart health, and controlling blood sugar levels.”
Ndlelana says working out is not something she does to lose weight, but to keep her body strong.
‘Prevention is better than cure‘
It is vital to know what is good for your body, so you do not suffer at a later stage, says Asavela Mntumni (28) from Hout Bay, Cape Town. Great foods she adds to her diet include asparagus, beans, berries, cherries, and avocado.
“I’ve found out that asparagus prevents birth defects, beans keep blood sugar levels and heart illnesses, while berries and cherries resource in sharpens your mind as you become older.”
She adds that there are many perks to eating an avocado a day, such as its benefits for eye health, and reducing levels of cholesterol as well as the inches on your waist.
“Greens, almonds, oats, salmon, avocado, proteins – consisting of eggs and beans – starches, whole fruit… Use olive oil often. Always keep those for your basket. You will not regret it, or suffer from the maximum [impact] of conditions that affect women.”
Mntumni explains that as tempting as junk food is, we have to be able to maintain our bodies, by prioritising a healthy eating regimen from a young age.
Should nutrition for women be different?
When it comes to the basics of healthy eating, there’s no doubt that what’s good for the goose, is also good for the gander.
No matter your gender, you can’t go wrong with eating a variety of healthy foods, including lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, legumes and pulses, nuts and seeds, lean proteins and dairy, healthy fats and wholegrains.
This is according to Maryke Bronkhorst, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ASDA). Good nutrition during the reproductive years helps set the foundation for health in years to come.
“It helps ensure proper growth during adolescence, adequate nutrient stores for a healthy pregnancy, and a good nutritional status to help maintain bone health during the menopausal and postmenopausal time of life,” explains Bronkhorst.
Tips from ADSA for your reproductive years include, to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, consume a healthy balanced diet, exercise regularly, avoid harmful substances, and include iron-rich protein food in your diet.
Nutrition during and after menopause
While the basics of a healthy, balanced diet stay the same, the years that come after women’s reproductive peak herald some slight changes in your healthy eating regime.
Bronkhorst notes that a common concern for women during and post-menopause is “unexplained” weight gain, especially around the abdomen.
“This is attributed to many factors, such as changes in hormones affecting metabolism; the loss of lean body mass, which is part of the ageing process; reduced basal metabolic rate; lifestyle changes and changes in physical activity.”
It is important to note that your calorie requirements are reduced post-menopause due to a natural metabolic “slow down”.
Focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods in smaller portions, cutting down on processed foods and foods that are high in fat and sugar, as well as maintaining (or increasing) regular physical activity. Due to the cessation of menstruation, iron requirements are reduced.