Diet and Nutrition for the Hard Working Woman


By Christopher Theberge


            Women must overcome a substantial number of obstacles when trying to pursue a career.  This often leads to increasing amounts of physical and emotional stress.  One major problem with this is that diet and nutrition are often put on the “backburner”, thereby increasing one’s chance of becoming sick.  It is easier to turn a can opener, than to make a stir-fry dish on those evenings when paperwork is piled sky high.  Although there is nothing wrong with this once in a while, overtime habits may begin to form where you find yourself doing this more often.  A downward spiral will finally ensue and you will inevitably develop a cold or something even worse.  This article is intended to provide some tips on avoiding becoming sick while having a hectic schedule.

            Proper nutrition is vital for survival and overall well being.  It is crucial to eat well-balanced meals, especially during stressful times.  Stress increases your susceptibility to viral infections.  Many people believe that they are deficient in nutrients and require a vitamin/mineral supplement.  There is really no need to buy a multi-vitamin supplement, unless your diet is severely lacking.  This is rarely the case in developed countries.  More often it is the inability to make good choices or the lack of proper knowledge for making those choices.  If one were to take a multi-vitamin, it is recommended that it be taken every other day.  The only thing you will get from taking one everyday is bright yellow, expensive urine.      

            Vitamin C is what everyone seems to link prevention of the common cold. However, there is no substantial evidence that suggests that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) prevents the common cold.  The only real evidence of increased vitamin C ingestion and the common cold has been decreased length of days it is present.  Yet, the benefits are very modest showing an average reduction of about one day.  It should be noted that singling out one nutrient is not the way to go.  Nutrients work together to exert their full potential.  You are better off eating an orange than taking a vitamin C supplement.  Oranges are great sources of folate, water, ascorbic acid, fiber, and a variety of phytochemicals.  Plus, there are hundreds of unknown chemicals present in foods that scientists have not identified yet. 

            Drinking an ample amount of fluids is essential.  Water is vital for survival because of its role in various chemical reactions in the body.  Dehydration can increase your chance of developing a cold.  Viruses and bacteria have a tough time surviving in hydrated environments.  This is one reason why physicians suggest that you drink plenty of fluids when you are sick.  Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol.  These are both diuretics, which increase fluid excretion from the kidneys.  Try drinking more decaffeinated beverages.  If this is not feasible, drink more water throughout the day.  Every time you pass a water fountain take a sip.  Keeping a water bottle at your desk or with you will also lead you to drink more water. 

            Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the day.  Fruits and vegetables are packed with energy rich carbohydrates, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and vitamins and minerals.  Keeping an apple or banana in your desk drawer will offer you a quick snack when you are hungry.  Increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption will not only help to prevent the common cold, but will decrease your risk of cancer.  It is not hard to follow the recommended 5 a day principal either.  One cup or raw vegetables or half a cup of cooked veggies is equal to one serving.  One small piece of fruit or ˝ cup of 100% fruit juice is equal to one fruit serving.  It should be noted that fruit juices pack a calorie punch and do not fill you up as much as whole fruits.  Therefore, try to replace your juice intake with whole fruits. 

            Woman have an increased risk of osteoporosis later in life due to loss of the menstrual cycle and hence estrogen concentration.  It is crucial that women receive adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium, along with physical activity.  Physical activity has shown to decrease cold prevalence and length.  It is also associated with increased bone mineral density, something very important in preventing development of osteoporosis.  It is recommended that individuals exercise for at least 30 minutes five days per week.  Exercise should focus on both resistance and aerobic exercise.  Resistance exercise is associated with greater bone mineral density, whereas aerobic is associated with a stronger heart and better circulatory system.  Incorporating both of these is better than one alone.

            These are just a few very basic tips that will help you to stay strong and healthy while working hard.  To sum it all up, whole foods are better than supplements.  Whole foods have a variety of compounds, known and unknown, that work together.  They provide more protection than single nutrients do, such as vitamin C.  Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is an easy way to develop a healthier lifestyle.  Calcium, vitamin D, and physical activity are all very important in maintaining great bone health.  Foods rich in calcium are dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt and green leafy vegetables.  Vitamin D is synthesized in the body via sun exposure.  A variety of foods are also fortified with the vitamin because those in northern regions have less conversion of the vitamin in the body.  If you are lactose intolerant or vegetarian, many soy products are fortified with calcium and some soymilk products have vitamin D.  Supplementation is not recommended if it can be avoided, however, it may benefit those who have inadequate intakes of calcium and vitamin D.  Proper supplementation is as follows: take 200 IU vitamin D in the morning with 500 mg calcium citrate malate, then the same dose before bed.  Avoid foods high in iron while taking this because iron and calcium compete for absorption.  Finally, increasing physical activity will not only provide you with many health benefits but also will increase mental stimulation and overall better mental health.   


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