International Women’s Day Part 1: Five foods myths around women’s health
There are several myths about what women should eat and avoid. While not all advice is bogus, some of it just doesn’t make any sense.
Did you grow up considering calcium to be enough for your bones? Did your mom tell you to avoid taking pickle out of the jar during menstruation since it may go bad?
Women go through many stages in their reproductive life cycle. Each one with significant variations in hormones that have a direct effect on their health. It’s no wonder that there is a never-ending list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to women’s health, even with respect to food. From periods, pregnancy to menopause, there are several myths around what women should eat and avoid.
While not all advice is bogus (like avoiding seafood that it is high in mercury during pregnancy since it may affect the baby’s brain development), some of it just doesn’t make any sense. This year on International Women’s Day we are doing a series on various topics that touch upon women’s health. This is the first in the series.
Here are the five most popular food myths around women’s health that need to be debunked already.
Myth 1: Women need only calcium to prevent osteoporosis.
While calcium is an important mineral needed for maintaining bone density, most health experts suggest that your body needs vitamin D to process and be able to use calcium. If you are deficient in vitamin D, you can’t get all the benefit from a calcium-rich diet.
An adult woman needs about 1000 mg of calcium per day, 1200 mg if you are talking about women above the age of 51 years. Most of this requirement can be fulfilled through food.
Calcium supplements are usually not needed (unless advised by the doctor), especially since excess calcium may lead to constipation, neurological symptoms and acidity. It may also increase your risk of getting kidney diseases. If you are taking calcium supplements don’t go overboard and stick to the recommended dietary requirements.
Most calcium supplements come with an added vitamin D too. Talk to your doctor to know the right dose for you.
Myth 2: Women need lesser calories than men.
Calorie requirements have nothing to do with gender. It depends on a person’s body type and the amount of exercise or physical work they do in a day.
Sure, most women do need somewhat lesser calories than men but that is because men are generally built bigger than women and hence need more calories to maintain their metabolic rate (the basic functions in their body). Health Harvard, the online resource for Harvard medical school, lists the following calorie requirements as per the bodyweight of a person:
- Any person who is living an otherwise sedentary lifestyle needs about 13 calories for every pound of their weight.
- A moderately active person needs 16 calories for every pound of their weight.
- A person who does rigorous physical activity needs about 18 calories for every pound of their weight.
One pound is roughly equal to 0.45kg
Myth 3: Women should be eating for two during pregnancy.
This is probably one of the most common food myths around pregnancy. Sure, you need to ensure that your baby gets all the nutrition too but that does not mean you’ll eat twice as much. If you do this, you’ll just end up putting a lot of extra weight which can make the pregnancy riskier and increase your chances of being overweight post-delivery.
Pregnant women may only need to add 300-400 calories per day in their diet during the second and third trimester while ensuring that they are consuming a healthy and balanced diet. This may also vary from person to person so do discuss this with your doctor. Avoid junk food and add more fresh fruits and veggies to your plate. A healthy diet would ensure that your baby gets all the nutrients and minerals needed for growth.
Myth 4: Women should not cook during menstruation.
In some societies, it is believed that women are impure or unclean when they are on their period and emit some kind of rays or smell that would spoil any kind of food (fresh or preserved) they touch. Though, this is as far from reality as it could be.
Menstruation is a normal part of a woman’s reproductive cycle. It has nothing to do with hygiene unless you are talking about maintaining menstrual hygiene, which is very important for women’s health. As for food, there is no scientific evidence to say a menstruating woman can spoil food by just touching or while making it.
Myth 5: Cranberry juice cures UTIs.
Drinking cranberry juice may indeed reduce your risk of getting a UTI, as researchers claim that the nutrients present in cranberries can keep the infectious bacteria from sticking to the walls of your urinary tract. However, if you’ve already got a UTI, cranberry juice won’t be of much help. Having too many servings of cranberry juice in hopes of treating it can cause stomach issues and increase your risk of kidney stones. You’ll have to take antibiotics to contain the infection.
For more such articles, please visit our section on Women’s health.
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