Healthy, 'Well'thy and Wise Foods for Women

There are many nutritious guardians besides calcium and vitamin D available for women's health issues. The right foods and ingredients can enhance fitness and curb menopausal issues as well as fight everything from diabetes, cancer and birth defects to heart disease and stroke.

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

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womanWellness, or the quality of being healthy in body and mind, has become a luxury lifestyle for many American women. In fact, wellness and fitness rank up there with "one can never be too rich or too thin" among female consumers. For many, healthy might just be the new "wellthy."

That's not to say healthy food and drinks should be luxuries; access to and the cost of better-for-you products often impede lower-income consumers from purchasing healthy items, including "free-from," "natural" and organic products, according to Mintel Group's (www.mintel.com) Global Food and Drink Trends for 2017 report.

"The need to address inequality in healthy products will persist because lower-income consumers make up a large part of the worldwide consumer base," the report states.

Dealing with energy drains, headaches, hormones, job, finances and family/household stress and especially weight issues are all in a day’s work for many women. While their health issues are as varied as women themselves, more women are influenced by fitness, anti-aging, the environment, healthy eating and nutrition. In the U.S., women spend more than $125 billion on nutrition and $40 billion against alternative medicine, according to Womens' Marketing (www.womensmarketing.com).

For decades, Kellogg Co. (www.kelloggs.com), Battle Creek, Mich., positioned Special K cereal to help women curb calories. More recently, women's changing viewpoints prompted the brand to revise its image and instead encourage empowerment and an active lifestyle. When Kellogg developed new Special K Nourish cereal and chewy gluten-free bars, it combined multiple grains, quinoa, granola, sliced almonds apples and raspberries.

Kellogg's research found women's approach now is more to manage health. "Skinny isn't how she wants to be perceived, but rather, strong," said Natasha Millar, senior marketing director for breakfast cereal and beverages at Kellogg Canada. "It’s not about losing weight, it’s about working out and building her sense of self. And while her stance on body image was at one point about looking good, now it’s about feeling good."

Special K Nourish Bars"Women are adopting a more proactive approach toward their health and shifting to preventive solutions rather than traditional interventions," explains Julio Lopez, nutrition research & innovation manager at Archer Daniels Midland Co. (www.adm.com), Chicago. "Nutritional needs vary by life stage and the specifics of certain key health conditions. Some focus areas particularly important for women are: heart, bone and reproductive health (including menopause)."

When it comes to food and beverages, Lopez notes women now favor clean, clear and transparent labels and ingredients of natural origin. "Some of the most popular ingredients in the women’s health space are calcium, plant-based proteins, vitamin D, folic acid, fiber, DHA, plant sterols and plant-based extracts with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties," he says.

All of this is creating opportunities for food manufacturers to develop better-for-you options. "There's a tremendous opportunity to develop food and drink lifestyle and life stage brands that support a wide range of women’s health needs," adds ADM's Mark Rainey, vice president of global food marketing.

While many women are aware of calcium and vitamin D's bone-strengthening benefits, they can face information overload when it comes to other elements of the women's health market, Lopez recognizes. "Consumers are often confused about which products are best to address specific health and nutrition needs."

Potassium, probiotic pluses

The number of women reaching menopause is increasing along with life expectancy. Estrogen declines and weight can increase at this time, as do the chances of osteoporosis, heart-related issues and diabetes. A diet high in calcium and vitamin D helps increase bone density and prevent bone loss and fractures.

Potassium-rich foods -- like vegetables, fruits, nuts and dark leafy greens -- and potassium-fortified products can lower blood pressure and contribute to a steady heart rhythm. That's important for many women who risk atrial fibrulation, a common irregular heart rhythm, says cardiologist John Day, who specializes in heart rhythm disorders at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Murray, Utah (drjohnday.com). The USDA recommends at least 4,700mg of potassium each day. "If your potassium levels are too high or too low, the heart is at increased risk of a cardiac arrest," Day adds.

Nautres Bounty ProbioticBioactive ingredients such as probiotics show a lot of promise in terms of improving gut health. Probiotics support digestive and immune health as well as enhanced protein utilization. Ganeden Inc. (www.ganedenbc30.com) says its probiotic GanedenBC30 can assist manufacturers in broadening retail product offerings, ranging from yogurt, smoothies and nutrition bars to sauerkraut chips, vinegars and quinoa infant cereals.

The Mayfield Heights, Ohio-based company worked on one recent example that incorporated dark chocolate − widely used by formulators for its antioxidants and heart-healthy, mood boosting properties. Chocolate Probiotic with Antioxidant Vitamin E, produced by supplement/vitamin maker Nature's Bounty Co. (www.naturesbounty.com), Bohemia N.Y., is dark chocolate pieces that each contain 2 billion live probiotic cultures of GanedenBC30. Launched this spring, the chocolate has 30 calories per piece and is designed to support digestive health.

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