Cutting Calories? The Essential Nutrients Every Woman Needs

Cutting Calories? The Essential Nutrients Every Woman Needs

As women, we've been taught that we must cut calories if we want to lose weight. Simple right? Not so much!

While we'd like to think the weight management game is all about energy in versus energy out, we know that this is just not reality. There are so many other factors to consider, including age, sex, activity level, current body composition, genetics, menopause, previous dieting attempts, medications, and more. Unfortunately, though, it's pretty engrained that eating less means weighing less and because of that, women across the globe limit their intake of food (a.k.a. energy).

In the end, limiting food intake in this way actually leaves us feeling lethargic, fatigued, and craving processed foods, which inhibits weight loss, spurs nutrient deficiencies and promotes a sluggish metabolism.

When thinking about weight loss, it's important to include the right essential nutrients in your diet. Making healthy choices in each of the categories below will assist in increasing your metabolism, feeding your body the essential nutrients that it needs, improving your health, along with the added benefits of weight loss! You'll feel an increase in energy and will be able to increase your activity level - the secret to successfully managing your weight.

Carbohydrates

The biggest problem with cutting back on carbs is that you limit your body's preferred source of energy. The key is to focus on the carbohydrates that provide the most nutrients and limit the ones that provide minimal nutrient value. Limit or eliminate soda, juice, candy and processed snacks, such as chips, cereal bars, muffins, cookies and pastries.

Instead, incorporate nutrient-rich carbs, like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains (including faro, barley, quinoa and brown rice). Strive to take in 4-6 servings of grains per day, 4 fruits and 5 vegetables. Doing so will also increase the amount of fiber you take in, which will leave you feeling satisfied and reduce cravings.

Protein

Protein is typically sacrificed when trying to avoid calories and fat. This is a mistake! Protein controls satiety and assists with reducing cravings. The trick lies in consuming lean sources of protein, like non-fat and low-fat dairy products (Greek yogurt, kefir, and cottage cheese), eggs, poultry, fish, nuts and beans. Protein may be especially helpful in the morning. Add some protein to breakfast and you're more likely to be satisfied until lunch time. Chances are, you won't be as tempted by all those high-fat, sugary, mid-morning snacks.

Iron

Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common nutrient deficiency for women. Anemia causes fatigue, which can hamper weight loss. In order to get the recommended 15 milligrams of iron per day, you will need to increase your intake of good iron sources, such as lean red meat, iron-fortified cereals, poultry, fish, beans and leafy green vegetables.

Calcium

Calcium is good for your bones, right? What does this have to do with weight loss? Well, bones are connected to muscles, so strong bones help build strong muscles. Strong muscles increase metabolic rate. Don’t forget that your heart is also a muscle! In the end, calcium is deeply involved in the pumping action of your heart.

Enjoy high-calcium foods, such as non-fat and low-fat dairy (milk, cheese and yogurt), soy products such as tofu and edamame, and green leafy vegetables. Consuming non-fat and fat-free dairy products has also been shown to decrease abdominal fat storage. Bonus!

Folic Acid

Folic acid can be found in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts and beans. Folic acid is known for preventing certain birth defects, but it also boosts immune function. There is nothing more frustrating when you're trying to exercise and eat right than getting sick. It can hamper your best efforts, so stay healthy and boost your folic acid intake!

Vitamin D

There is an increasing amount of research on vitamin D. We get our vitamin D naturally from the sun and foods like mushrooms, eggs, salmon and fortified cereals. Since we spend a lot of time out of the sun or covered in sunscreen, we lack exposure to vitamin D, making it one of the most common vitamin deficiencies. Along with other negative health consequences, this deficiency can also hamper our weight loss attempts.

Consuming more vitamin D-rich these foods can help, as can spending 10 minutes in the sun per day without sunscreen. For those who live in climates that don’t allow us year-long exposure to sun, a supplement from a medical doctor may be necessary.

The most important takeaway?

The bottom line is EAT! Eat healthy and give your body what it needs most. When you do this, you'll have greater results than you would simply cutting calories without considering the bigger picture.

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, Triathlon Coach


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