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Should Women Just Eat Less than Men?

By Guest Nutritionist Melanie Roskam

Week Four of Demystifying Diets: Achieving Balance Through the Art of Eating

Each week in August our Chiropractors and our guest Nutritionist Melanie have deciphered the research and science to help you understand different diets and ways of eating. We hope this helps you when deciding what food might be right for you. 

 

Everyday women get bombarded with health and well-being advertising, claiming:

‘the new best diet’ or  ‘weight loss secrets’

It’s challenging to know what information to take on and what to avoid.

Through my experience as a Nutritionist I have discovered the answer is simple, it is the diet that balances your hormones whilst also giving you energy, vitality, and longevity, and supports your biological need for happiness and health. 

It is not true that women just need to eat less than men, women are not small men. Women’s hormones are actually much more finely tuned to threats against energy restriction and fertility. When these hormones are balanced this can mean great things, so ensuring your diet supports and nourishes healthy hormones is essential for women with a modern lifestyle. 

What is the Best Diet for a Woman?

The best diet for a woman is the one that includes a variety of whole, unrefined foods and follows three main principles.

1. Eat a balanced plate 

Your meals should fill you up for at least 3-4 hours. If they are not then you may not have the right balance of macro-nutrients (Complex Carbs, Protein & Healthy Fats)or you might not be eating enough. When you get the right balance it should stabilise your blood sugar levels, keeping you full for longer and giving you good energy.

Complex Carbohydrates

These are essential for a happy and healthy body. If you have any symptoms relating to thyroid/adrenal/ function, menstrual issues, reduced exercise performance, poor sleep and gut health, you may be under consuming complex carbohydrates or over-consuming simple carbohydrates/sugar.  

¼ of your plate should contain good quality starchy carbohydrates (approx 1/2 – 1 cup). There are plenty to choose from including legumes, starchy vegetables (pumpkin, kumara), rice, fruit, good quality dairy. 

½ your plate can be filled with non-starchy carbs, and try to have leafy greens at least once a day if you are not already (roughly 1 cup cooked or 2 cups raw).

Proteins

These are essential to our health as they are the building blocks that make everything from our hair and nails to our hormones, protein needs to be included at every meal, breakfast included. Include a palm-size per meal which should fill 1/4 of your plate (20-30 grams). 

Fats

Fats, just like carbs and protein are essential in achieving happy hormones. Good quality fats also come with antioxidants, phytonutrients, fat-soluble vitamins, and are the vehicle for you to absorb fat-soluble vitamins from our food. Aim to add one – two tablespoons of good fats with every meal (unless you have a fatty cut of meat or have already used fats with baking or frying); good choices include olive oil, avocado & organic ghee (if tolerated). 

2. Eat Breakfast 

Breakfast like a ‘King’, breakfast has always been touted as the most important meal of the day but with modern day pressures in the morning and the hype around intermittent fasting it has become easy to believe that skipping breakfast might be good for your health. 

But most studies on fasting have not included women and do not have a focus on the female population in general, making the science behind intermittent fasting not as relevant for women. The research doesn’t look at the metabolism or metabolic changes specific for women. 

Women benefit instead from a constant flow of nutrient dense nutrition/calories throughout the day and this is because in the ‘hunter-gatherer society’ a lack of food would have signaled to the body that this is not a good time to reproduce and slowed the metabolism to conserved energy and store fat in order to survive a potential long-term famine.

Why is eating breakfast for women essential?

It replenishes energy stores and stabilises hormones. While we are asleep, our blood sugar levels plummet, and by the morning, the liver’s glycogen stores have been depleted to maintain blood glucose levels throughout the night. When the energy store gets exhausted, this lowers blood glucose and insulin levels as a result, and the stress hormone cortisol is released. Cortisol level naturally rises in the morning, but if we skip breakfast that would replenish our store, it signals the body to begin breaking down muscle for breakfast. 

Eating breakfast is linked to
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reduced risk of type two diabetes 
  • Reduced Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and increased Leptin (full hormone) 
  • Reduced Stress (studied showed 89% reduction in anxiety when faced with a challenging situation) 
  • Increased Mental & Physical Performance

Breakfast should be a well-rounded event, just as the balanced food plate suggests incorporating the right amount of protein, complex carbs and fat is essential. If breakfast is not your thing or you need help figuring out what works right for your body type, let us talk. If you are still wanting to try some form of intermittent fasting, then let explore meal frequency rather than skipping breakfast. 

3. Practice Consistent Meal Frequency 

Eating regularly and properly fueling the body throughout the day can help ensure that we are not under or overeating and create an environment necessary for healthy weight management or loss where required. Women benefit from a constant flow of nutrient dense food, as to stop the body from perceiving famine. When we are constantly skipping meals or eating erratically it can lead to cravings of calorie-dense foods (often not health promoting) such as chocolate and chips to replenish these stores. Instead the best way to support a woman’s body is to consistently eat a balanced plate throughout the day. 

  • Eat breakfast within 1-2 hours of waking, if struggling with thyroid or adrenal problems, eating within the first hour can be a game-changer. 
  • Eat three meals a day consistently where possible. 
  • Include 1-2 snacks initially when transitioning to a whole food diet, to reduce getting overly hungry, this could be fruit and yoghurt, vegetables sticks and hummus, couple of boil eggs, or nuts and seeds. 
  • Front-end your nutrient loading to breakfast and lunch, instead of saving your nutrient intake to dinner when the day is over, it will give you better energy, more mental clarity and prevent weight gain over time. 

If you are keen to try intermittent fasting, try instead ‘early restrictive eating’ where instead you eat three meals a day between 7am-5pm and fast overnight when energy requirement is generally lower. 14 hours fast has been shown to be long enough and no greater significant benefit comes from fasting for 16 hours. Depending on your day you might find 8am-6pm more appropriate, but if you are getting up earlier than 6am or have thyroid or adrenal concerns you really need to be eating within the first hour of waking and having a cup of coffee (even with collagen) does not make a meal!

Where to start?

The next step is to apply some of these tips to your eating habits and monitor your weight, energy and vitality.

I am excited to announce I will be hosting a great live workshop on Wednesday 26th August at 1.15pm at our Wellington Practice (also available to live stream). For only $10 you can join us live or online and get your nutritional questions answered. All proceeds will go to local charity Bellyful.
RSVP to save yourself a spot today – spaces are limited!

For more information check out the event page.

If you would like the extra support of a 1-on-1 consultation, email info@chirobalance.co.nz and we will arrange that for you.

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