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Nutritional Health for Women

Unhealthy Fats That Should Be Eaten Sparingly

Classifications Examples
Trans-fatty acids hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oil, stick margarine, shortening
Saturated fats lard, animal fat, full-fat dairy products, palm and palm kernel oil, coconut oil

Vitamins are organic nutrients that function as enzymes and regulators of important chemical reactions in the body. Vitamin deficiencies can result in diseases and problems with certain body structures and functions. Vitamins are either water or fat soluble. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored by the body, and, therefore, have less risk of overdose and more risk of deficiency. Because fat-soluble vitamins are stored (in fat), it is possible to overdose, causing liver damage. Studies have shown that athletic, active women do not get enough vitamins B, D, and E through their diet.

Type Vitamin Function
Fat soluble A vision, skin, hormones
D bones and calcium
E prevents cell damage
K blood clotting
Water soluble B metabolism
C healing, connective tissues

Fat-Soluble Vitamins
The fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K. Vitamin A is important for night vision, skin, and hormone regulation and is found in milk, butter, and eggs. Beta-carotene is a building block of vitamin A that has cancer-fighting properties, but only when eaten from food sources. Beta-carotene supplements are not recommended as studies have shown that high doses may actually increase certain cancer risks. Healthy natural sources of beta carotene include leafy greens and orange-colored fruits and vegetables (cantaloupe, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes). Vitamin D is essential to women because it acts as a hormone that aids in bone building and calcium absorption. Vitamin D can be made by your body cells through sun exposure; 15 minutes of direct sun (not through sunscreen or glass) on your face and hands daily will allow your body to make enough. Vitamin D is found in egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver and is added to most milk and milk products. Vitamin E is well known as an antioxidant that can prevent cancer and prevent cell damage including damage to blood cells and muscle tissue during exercise, so it is important to exercising women. It is found in vegetable oils, nuts, beans, and green leafy vegetables. Vitamin K is important for blood clotting and also regulates calcium.

Water-Soluble Vitamins
Vitamin C is necessary for muscle, bone, and soft tissue health. It also helps wound healing and immunity and is an antioxidant that has cancer-fighting properties. Vitamin C is found in orange juice and citrus fruits, tomatoes, strawberries, and red, orange, and yellow bell peppers. Vitamin C aids the absorption of iron. At least 60 milligrams of vitamin C should be obtained through foods or drinks daily.

The B vitamins are important for energy metabolism. B vitamins are also known as the "stress" vitamins, because the body needs them for repair and higher function in times of stress or illness. Important B vitamins to women are folate, which helps prevent anemia and birth defects in pregnancy, and vitamin B6, which is important to nerves, hemoglobin, and antibodies. B6 can also improve mood and help with PMS. B12 is also important for nerves and blood cell formation. Thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin are involved in energy metabolism and are needed at higher doses also during times of high activity. It is common for active and athletic women to not consume enough B vitamins.

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From The Active Woman's Health and Fitness Handbook by Nadya Swedan. Copyright © 2003 by Nadya Swedan. Used by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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