Women, to put it bluntly, are biologically different from men. Those differences imply some guidelines for diet, exercise and health matters in general.
Women, for example, naturally have a higher percentage of body fat than men, 27% on average compared to 15% for a fit individual. That single number alone is helpful information if one of your weight loss or exercise goals is fat reduction. Any woman trying to reduce her percentage should take into account this natural difference, since it can help avoid guilt and provide a realistic goal.
Women experience hormonal changes that differ considerably from that of men as they age. Even young women can have irregularities in menstrual cycle and other physiological changes as a result. This can be seen more clearly by looking at some extreme cases, for example.
Women in concentration camps in WWII frequently discontinued having regular menstrual cycles, as a result of the effects of starvation. Highly trained female athletes also often experience similar changes, as a result of ultra-low body fat and other causes.
The ill effects of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) can be reduced by stabilizing blood sugar levels, regulating fat intake and other dietary changes. For example, mood swings can be smoothed out to a degree by higher amounts of soluble fiber, which helps produce a slower rise in blood sugar. Apples, oats and beans are good sources.
Combining fat with protein and carbohydrate intake in a balanced way will help slow the rise in blood sugar from the carbohydrate consumption. Ice cream may be a comfort food but the effect is short-lived and doesn’t provide the balance needed. Instead, increase consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. Bananas are a good choice, along with walnuts.
Women are more prone to arthritis, fibromyalgia and other conditions. Certain previously unsuspected food allergies can worsen the symptoms. Testing is essential, but at the same time a healthy diet will help. Rice beverages can be substituted for those sensitive to cows milk, there are wheat-free breads on the market that are still whole grain and peanuts may need to be avoided for some.
For example some women who suffer from rheumatic symptoms will find they are allergic to wheat. A gluten-free diet will help lessen that problem. This includes finding substitutes for ordinary cereal, standard bread, pasta and other foods made from wheat flour.
During the years of menopause, as cycles become less regular and large hormonal changes are occurring, diet can help lessen the severity of any discomfort. Lowering sodium intake is helpful. Substitutes include herbs, garlic or lemon juice for flavoring. Each individual is different, though, and you should consult a physician for proper amounts.
Menopausal women are likely to benefit from reducing saturated fats, beyond that of younger women or males. Since estrogen levels are declining, HDL cholesterol (the beneficial type) will tend to fall and LDL cholesterol (the potentially harmful type) will rise.
One result is that, though men in general have a higher risk of heart attack as they age, during this time a woman’s risk is equal to those of men of similar age. Reducing saturated and trans fat can help reduce those risks.
Moderate wine consumption is beneficial. It provides anti-oxidants and other helpful compounds and is generally lower in calories than many alternatives. Lowering caffeine can help reduce loss of calcium, which is more needed as women age.
What constitutes a proper diet varies somewhat by gender and age, so investigate what is right for your particular circumstances. Knowledge is the key to health.