October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so women’s health will be on many people’s minds in the coming weeks. Healthy lifestyle choices are important not only for reducing women’s risk of developing breast cancer, but also for promoting overall health and wellness for men and women of all ages. Follow these tips for overall healthy living:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Choose a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, lean proteins, and dairy foods each day
- Limit added sugar, salt, and saturated fat in your diet
- Work 30 minutes of physical activity into every day
- Limit alcohol to one drink per day, if you choose to drink and are of legal age
- Avoid exposure to carcinogens (chemicals that can cause cancer) – these are found in tobacco products, environmental toxins, radiation, and other sources
- Wear sunscreen or protective covering when out in the sun
- Get appropriate preventative screenings at the recommended times – talk to your doctor about what is right for your current stage of life and family medical history
Some nutrients that women should especially focus on for fueling an active, healthy lifestyle include:
- Iron for good health and energy levels in women prior to menopause. This nutrient can be found in red meat, chicken, fish, kale, spinach, beans, lentils, and fortified breakfast cereals. Plant-based sources of iron are more easily absorbed when eaten with foods that are rich in vitamin C – try adding strawberries to fortified breakfast cereal, topping a spinach salad with mandarin orange slices, or adding tomatoes to a lentil soup.
- Folate (and folic acid) to decrease the risk of birth defects for women of childbearing age. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding have the highest needs. You can find this nutrient in foods that naturally contain folate (citrus fruits, leafy greens, beans, and peas), fortified foods (breakfast cereals and breads), or dietary supplements. Talk to your doctor or dietitian before taking any supplements.
- Calcium and vitamin D for healthy bones and teeth and to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Foods rich in these nutrients include milk, cheese, yogurt, sardines, salmon, eggs, tofu (made with calcium sulfate), and fortified foods (milk alternatives, juices, and cereals).
Gleaners Food Bank is committed to making health and nutrition more accessible to its employees, community partners, and clients. All of the foods listed above are included in our classification of “Foods to Encourage”, or foods that promote health and well-being. As part of our strategic plan, Gleaners has set a goal that 80% of the foods we distribute will be “Foods to Encourage” by 2023.