When families sit down to eat, man, woman and child all serve themselves the same kinds of foods. But did you know that women actually have different nutritional needs than men?
Because of their role in producing children, women need specific nutrients for their bodies to function well. Eating certain foods can help women have healthy children, fight disease, and live a long life.
Despite the benefits of eating right, malnutrition, when a person doesn’t get all the vitamins and minerals that their body needs from their diet, is common in Rwanda.
World Health Organization statistics show that 12 per cent of Rwandan women are underweight, and probably malnourished. Surprisingly, this isn’t because they aren’t getting enough food.
According to Alexis Mucumbitsi, an official with the Ministry of Health, 80 per cent of the malnourished population is getting enough food to eat—just not the right kind. Some common Rwandan staples like cassava and Irish potatoes don’t have very many nutrients, and nutrient –rich foods like meat can be expensive to buy.
So what are woman to do when they want to be sure they’re eating a balanced diet? Here are seven foods that Rwandan women should eat to keep healthy and disease-free.
The beans that you take with your cassava or rice are actually very good for you! Legumes like soy beans, red beans and peanuts provide many nutrients that are important for women. One is folic acid, which helps a baby develops well during pregnancy. Another is isoflavone, a nutrient found in beans that helps control female hormones. This nutrient has been shown to help protect against female cancers.
Rwanda is known by some as the land of milk and honey, so it’s good to learn that dairy products are also very nutritious. Foods like cheese, fresh milk and yoghurt provide lots of calcium that a woman’s body can use.
This calcium works to prevent osteoporosis, a disease where the bones become weak as a person gets older. Osteoporosis is less common in black women than in white women, but still occurs frequently. Black woman are also more likely than white women to die if they fracture their hip due to the disease. Eating enough calcium can help prevent this.
Researchers have found that women who get an adequate amount of vitamin K, found in leafy greens like minioc and spinach, are much less likely to suffer hip fractures caused by osteoporosis.
Greens also provide large amounts of Vitamin A, which is essential for keeping your skin and internal organs healthy. According to a survey by the World Health Organization, 8 per cent of Rwandan women have a Vitamin A deficiency, which can lead to eye problems and certain diseases.
Studies have found that this red fruit protects against breast cancer. This is because of the nutrient lycopene, which comes out when tomatoes are cooked. Lycopene is also good for the skin, and can help a woman look younger.
Women generally have lower levels of iron than men, so it is important for women to get enough iron in their diet. Low iron levels can lead to dizziness and fatigue. Eating red meat regularly can provide a woman with much of the iron that her body needs. Red meat also provides high levels of protein, which has been proven to help women lose weight and age healthily.
Meat is a luxury for some in Rwanda—many Rwandans in rural areas eat meat only once a month, because it is so expensive. If eating meat regularly is outside of your budget, leafy greens are a good way to get iron, and beans, fish and eggs are a great way to get enough protein.
These fungi are another food that can prevent cancer in women. Once study found that women who ate one-third of an ounce of raw mushrooms every day were 64 per cent less likely to get breast cancer.
The fibre in mushrooms also works to prevent many diseases that can be caused by diet, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Research has found that black women have a higher risk of developing these diseases than white women, so it is important to eat preventative foods like mushrooms.
Studies have shown that consuming curry powder can help prevent a variety of diseases common to women, including skin, ovarian and breast cancer. Curcumin, an antioxidant that gives curry its colour, has also been found to stop the growth of cancerous tumours in lab tests.
It’s not just curry powder that is good for your body. Scientists have found that many other spices, including cinnamon and turmeric, can help prevent disease.