During September, the Health Options column will honor Women's Health Month and focus on the nutritional and health concerns of females from adolescence through the golden years.
lifestyle keys to health
This week, we look at adolescence, the period when girls become women. The teen years represent a critical time when diet and lifestyle lay much of the foundation that will determine a woman's health for life.
Ideally, every female would enter adolescence with a good self-image, accepting her body type regardless of size and weight. Since a teen's body changes rapidly, good health is especially dependent on eating a full complement of nutrients and adequate calories for normal growth and development. Acceptance of body image helps a young woman gain the confidence to enjoy the range of foods needed for health.
Possibly the most important characteristic a young girl can acquire is an eclectic palate. Enjoying a wide variety of foods is a key element of good nutrition, providing nutrients that are especially important for long-term health.
What are good eating habits?
1. Maintaining a healthy body weight translates into balancing a physically active lifestyle with an adequate intake of food to stay active.Finally, staying active helps maintain a normal appetite. More calories can be consumed without excess weight gain, increasing the chances of meeting nutrient needs.
2. Training the tastebuds to enjoy many flavor combinations and food textures, rather than just the typical high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar U.S. diet.
3. Including a variety of high-calcium foods daily helps build normal bones and prevents osteoporosis later in life. It is during adolescence and through the early 20s that the mineral foundation of the adult skeleton is established. These foods include milk products and other high-calcium foods such as fortified soy milk, fortified orange juice and large servings of darker green vegetables from the cabbage family, such as choy sum and bok choy.
4. Consuming a variety of foods containing vitamin A or beta-carotene and zinc can help to keep finicky complexions more healthy looking. The richest food sources of beta-carotene are the most colorful fruits and vegetables. Good zinc sources include, meats, nuts, seeds, and wheat germ.
5. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables can supply a variety of antioxidants that may help prevent heart disease or various types of cancer. Fruits also provide folic acid needed for growth, heart health and reproduction.
6. Whole grain products and other energy sources help moderate "empty" sugar calories. Complex carbohydrates also provide plenty of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
7. Getting enough iron and protein provides the elements for normal blood-cell production. This prevents the common anemia that can occur in young females after they start menstruating. An iron supplement could take care of iron needs, however, iron supplements often cause nausea.
Acceptance of body type, staying active and eating a variety of wholesome foods provide the foundation for the health of a woman.
Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S., is a food and nutrition consultant
and owner of Exploring New Concepts, a nutritional consulting firm.
She is also responsible for the nutritional analyses
indicated by an asterisk in this section.
Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S., is a sports nutritionist in the
Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Science,
University of Hawaii-Manoa.