For many women, it seems like the best step for eating well: grabbing low-calorie sodas, eating fat-free yogurts and occasionally dining on meat for protein.
But in the world of women's health, body inflammation has become the new indicator of poor eating habits. Experts say some standard options only make this worse, especially in women.
“The quality of what we’re eating will affect whether our body is inflamed,” said Ashley Koff, a registered dietician who has authored numerous books on healthy living including “Recipes for IBS” and “Mom Energy: A Simple Plan to Live Fully Charged”.
In general, the dilemma is that certain foods trigger bloating hormones. But which foods are they, and what should women eat instead?
Stop popping calorie-free pop
Diet soda may taste good and seem like it quenches your thirst, but that’s not s necessarily the case.
“[Drinking diet soda] is like revving a car engine with no gas in the tank,” said Koff. “You might get stimulants, but not having any nutrients causes your body to go super high and crash super low.”
Even though this beverage group lacks calories, it often facilitates caloric eating habits.
“[Women] think it will help them lose weight,” Koff said. “What happens is that they’ll eat something of poor quality later.”
In addition to causing cravings and having zero nutritional value, a studies show that diet soft drinks have inflammatory effects.
“It’s devoid of nutrition,” Erin Palinski-Wade a registered dietician and certified personal trainer said. “Over time, inflammation in our body can put [women] at risk for getting diseases.”
Women who think they’re in the mood for soda are likely hungry or looking for carbonated beverages. Rather than drinking artificially flavored sodas, Koff recommends having apple slices with some peanut butter or caffeinated tea with a handful of nuts.
For those who prefer bubbly beverages to snacks, make a seltzer and juice beverage at home.
“This makes for a nice carbonated drink,” Palinski-Wade said. “Your best choice is to avoid diet and regular [sodas all together].”
Quit snapping gum
Sugar-free chewing gums contain chemicals that trick our bodies into believing they’re ingesting nutrition.
“When we chew, our mouth will water. That release of saliva will think it’s time to eat. Our body is smart and will get irritated,” Koff said, noting that many of her clients often complain of stomach bloat from chewing gum.
Drink more water or chew instead on vegetables, said Koff.
“Significant gum-chewers are chewing as opposed to drinking water,” Koff said. “Make sure you’re not chewing gum in place of [it].”
In addition to chewing rather than drinking, Palinski-Wade said female gum-chewers gulp more air than anticipated due to breathing patterns.
“The way you’re chewing, you may be swallowing more air than you realize,” Palinski-Wade said. “I would try to eliminate gum.”
Both women agreed that staying hydrated helps curb addictions.
Go green, go fish
According to a recent Harvard study, consuming red meats can cause swelling in women.
“The quality of what we’re eating will affect whether our body is inflamed. I’m going to look for a cow that’s been eating what it’s supposed to; that is not given antibiotics or hormones,” Koff said. “Pay attention to the quality and the quantity of these animals."
Wild salmon and certain seeds balance feminine hormones well, providing equal -- if not more -- nutrition when compared with red meat.
“When in doubt, I would go with the plant option, not the animal option,” said Koff, who often packs hemp seeds in her suitcase when traveling. “It is less likely that it’s going to be harmful.”
Fat-free yogurt craze
According to a recent study, women who eat lots of low-fat dairy products face an 85 percent higher risk of infertility than women who consume little or no low-fat dairy products.
Artificially-flavored yogurts, which fall under the low-fat category, have menial nutritional value.
“Fat-free dairy yogurts act as sugar bombs,” Koff said. “I would recommend that someone does a plain low-fat yogurt and that they add their own topping to it; it’s the best of both worlds.”
The simpler the yogurt, the better health effect it has.
“Cottage cheese gives you enough calories and less artificial ingredients,” Palinski-Wade said. “Stay away from processed foods after looking at the laundry list of ingredients.”
More than one half of the population in the United States uses dietary supplements, but that does not mean women should take them freely.
Ingest with caution as many contain highly processed ingredients of lesser quality than whole foods. Calcium in some supplements is comprised of limestone, which does not get digested or used in the body like eating calcium from food sources, according to Koff.
“Make sure that your supplement is good quality so that your body recognizes it as food.”
Unless your body requires supplements due to dietary or hereditary limitations, stick with what’s simplest.
“It’s important to think food first,” Palinski-Wade said. “There are things in food we cannot replicate in pills.”
On the whole, nutritionists Koff and Palinski-Wade support healthy diets that fulfill women’s daily nutritional needs and reduce bloating and health risks. Snacking periodically throughout the day helps curb cravings.