Essential Vitamins & Minerals for Parents
So far in our blog series on essential nutrients, we have learnt about nourishing our kids well. Now it is time to focus on the real heroes of the story…
Yes, you guessed it – I am talking about you, parents!
As we get older, our body goals begin to shift. Instead of growing, we begin to focus on health maintenance and slowing down the (ever notorious) aging process.
The following nutrients are essential for adults and should therefore be prioritised amidst their busy, yet rewarding lives.
Essential Nutrients for Men
Have you ever attended a braai hosted by men? Were the main colours on the table brown and white (i.e. meat and starch)?
It turns out this is not only a stereotype. Studies have shown that men generally do eat more meat and starch, whilst eating less fresh fruit and vegetables than women.
This is not all bad. The “manly diet” provides good quality protein, iron and zinc – the main building blocks of muscles and red blood cells, however, it also lacks certain nutrients.
Men often do not get enough of the following nutrients in their diet:
- Fibre – which is very important for healthy stools, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and preventing weight gain (i.e. the dad bod).
- Antioxidants – which are the powerful little fighters in our bodies – fighting off diseases, cancerous cells and signs of aging.
Foods you should try to include: fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, chickpeas, beans, lentils and whole-grains.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends eating 1½ to two cups of fruit and two to three cups of vegetables per day
Here are some tips for getting in more fibre and antioxidants:
- Try to include fruit with your breakfast – if you usually have a bowl of cereal or oats, add in a chopped banana or apple.
- Keep healthy snacks at hand throughout your busy day – keep a bulk bag of nuts and seeds in your work drawer or a pack of fruit in your fridge.
- Have a simple side-salad with your favourite meals (for example, at your next men’s braai).
- Aim to have half of your plate filled with salad or other vegetables (frozen vegetables are just as healthy as fresh, by the way).
- If you find you are still struggling to get your veg in, having one fresh veggie juice each day is a great supplement to your diet! They require no prep on your part.
Essential Nutrients for Women
Women’s bodies are a little bit more complex – as they go through cycles, their hormones change and their bodies have different goals.
The following nutrients are essential for women’s health and vitality.
Female hormones are more likely to lead to osteoporosis, so getting enough calcium is very important for maintaining strong bones.
A good rule of thumb is to eat two to three servings of calcium-rich foods per day: fortified plant-based milks, cheeses, yogurts, fortified orange juice, kale and spinach.
We are lucky to have plenty of sunshine in South Africa – the perfect conditions for vitamin D production. Incorporating regular outdoor time into your lifestyle can help your bones to absorb more calcium, which is ultimately what we all want!
Iron and B12
These two nutrients are super important for healthy red blood cells – the incredible oxygen vehicles of our bodies.
Women can lose quite a bit of iron and vitamin B12 every month, so if they don’t replenish these nutrients, a condition known as anaemia could develop.
Eating plenty of green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils and chickpeas can ensure that our red blood cells are always ready for action.
Magnesium, Vitamin E and Vitamin B6
These next three nutrients will soon become your best friends once you hear what they can do…
Magnesium, vitamin E and vitamin B6 all help to regulate female hormone levels and could therefore decrease PMS symptoms (such as mood swings, cravings and bloating).
Once again, the group of legumes (chickpeas, lentils and beans) are a great food choice here, as well as the green leafy veggies. Fresh berries, bananas, nuts, seeds and avocados are also fantastic sources of these PMS-busting nutrients.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that helps with hormone production and keeping our joints healthy. It also keeps our brains happy and balanced – something moms desperately need whilst trying to juggle their busy lives.
The richest source of omega-3 is oily fish, while some great plant sources include chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
Practical tips for getting in enough of these essential nutrients:
- Create a meal routine for yourself. It is very easy to skip meals when you’re preoccupied with work and looking after busy kids.
- Keep your day-time meals and snacks fairly simple. This will decrease the amount of pressure you feel. Then focus on having a heartier evening meal by yourself (or with your partner) once the kids are asleep.
- Use the “plate” method to simplify meals: Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables, one quarter of your plate with protein and the final quarter with wholesome carbs.
Written by Registered Dietician, Vicki Fischer.
Photography by www.neverbeforemedia.com