You love to eat, but you also love to feel great. You can do both if you choose foods that make you smarter, leaner, stronger—and then use them in tasty new ways.
We’ve made that easy to do with Health’s top 12 superfoods for women. They were selected by our panel of experts for their mega benefits.
What’s even more delicious: When you mix and match these healthiest choices, you get super combos with even more power—a breakfast and dinner that’s good for your heart, a sweet treat that helps keep your tummy calm and mind sharp.
1. WILD ALASKAN SALMON
“It’s all about omega-3s,” says health guru, explaining why fish like sockeye top his must-eat list for women. All of our experts agreed: wild salmon packs a wallop with two kinds of heart-healthy omega-3s, including DHA, a fatty acid essential for a healthy pregnancy.
Omega-3s also boost mood, fight depression, and may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Add in salmon’s lean protein and vitamin D (a critical nutrient many women lack), and you’ve got yourself a near-perfect food.
How much you need: Eat at least two servings of a fatty fish like salmon a week.
2. WILD BLUEBERRIES
If berries are nutritional treasures, wild blueberries are the crown jewels. “They’re truly one of nature’s ultimate antiaging foods,” says Expert. Research suggests the tiny gems not only help prevent memory loss but also may improve motor skills and help lower blood pressure. Another reason to love ’em: they’re high in antioxidants that help fight wrinkles.
Why choose wild? Scientists came up with a new way of testing the antioxidant activity in foods, wild blueberries scored the highest. They have compounds called anthocyanins, one of the most powerful forms of antioxidants. Another plus: at only 80 calories a cup, you can eat them without guilt.
How much you need: Aim for a half-cup to one cup of any kind of berries a day, but mix in wild blueberries as much as possible. Many supermarkets carry them frozen.
We all know that oats can help lower cholesterol. Now scientists say oats, rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, are also good for helping you feel full so you can control your weight. They keep you regular, too.
Which type of oats should you choose? If you’re making oatmeal, steel-cut oats take longer to cook than rolled oats but deliver more fiber, says Expert. Always in a morning rush? Instant works, too.
How much you need: Add oats (and other whole grains) to your diet throughout the day. Recommended 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber a day—that’s about six times the amount of fiber in an average serving of oatmeal. So eat up!
This humble vegetable is a winner, thanks to research that suggests the chemicals in cruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli, may help prevent breast cancer by fighting excess estrogen. Rich in vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A, broccoli helps you feel full on less than 30 calories per serving. And it gets bonus points for fiber, folate (folic acid), calcium, iron, and potassium.
Cooked or raw, broccoli delivers a nutrient punch, says Expert.
How much you need: Eat two or more half-cup servings of cooked broccoli per week.
“Protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3s—what else is there to say?” asks Expert.
Eating just a handful of walnuts a day can help you lower cholesterol, boost brain power, sleep better, cope with stress, prevent heart disease, fight cancer, and more. In fact, a new study showed that walnuts appeared to lower the risk of breast cancer in mice.
How much you need: Have one ounce (about 12 walnut halves) daily.
Yes, they’re high in fat. But in this case that’s not a bad thing. “We shouldn’t be so fatphobic,” says Expert.
The heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) in avocados can actually help you lose belly fat, a risk factor for heart disease and even some fertility problems. Avocados also pack high amounts of potassium, magnesium, folate, protein, and vitamins B6, E, and K. Add to that fiber and cholesterol-lowering plant sterols, and you have one nutrient-dense food.
How much you need: Limit yourself to one-quarter to one-half an avocado a day.
7. RED BEANS
Beans of any kind are nutrition dynamos. But red beans made our top 10 list for several reasons: they’re rich in antioxidants and packed with protein, folate, minerals, and fiber, including resistant starch. “That’s the hot new thing in fiber research,” says Expert.
Resistant starch seems to have several important benefits, like boosting the body’s ability to burn fat, helping you feel full, controlling blood sugars, and even reducing cancer risk.
Don’t have time to cook a pot of dried beans? Canned beans are a good option, too, says Expert.
How much you need: Enjoy three cups of cooked beans a week. Worried about getting gassy? Build up slowly. Start with one tablespoon of beans a day and double the amount each week. Rinsing canned beans before using also eases the problem.
8. DARK CHOCOLATE
It’s “the food you love that loves you back,” Expert says. Rich in heart- protective antioxidants, dark chocolate can help reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. It’s loaded with magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, and phosphorus—all important for strong bones.
Studies suggest chocolate may also help hydrate the skin, lower blood pressure, and sharpen thinking. And then there’s the fun factor. “Chocolate is a sensual pleasure, something women often don’t get enough of in their food,” Expert says. We say, let the pleasure begin.
How much you need: Eat just one-quarter ounce a day. And be sure to look for kinds made with at least 70% cocoa.
9. OLIVE OIL
No list would be complete without this flavorful oil. A staple of the Mediterranean diet, it has long been linked to heart health and longevity. But mounting evidence shows that olive oil may be good for your brain, too.
Compounds in extra-virgin olive oil seem to fight certain kinds of breast cancer. Want to get more of this healthy staple in your diet? Substitute olive oil for other fats: use it on bread instead of butter and in the place of less-healthy cooking oils.
How much you need: Get two tablespoons a day; it may lower your risk of heart disease.
This petite fruit contains about 70 milligrams of vitamin C—more than an orange and just 5 milligrams short of the daily recommendation for women. Research links C to improved eyesight, lower cancer risks, and better heart health.
How to enjoy: Peel and slice some kiwifruit, and mix it with bananas for a potassium-rich fruit salad; kiwifruit’s tartness complements the bananas’ mellow flavor. Or simply slice a kiwifruit in half and grab a spoon—the fruit creates its own bowl.
Pick whichever variety of mushroom suits your taste buds; all of them pack a healthy punch. But crimini (the small, brown ones) and portobello ranked as high in antioxidants as string beans, red bell peppers, and carrots.
How to enjoy: Saute a big portobello in heart-healthy olive oil, and sub for meat in burgers or enchiladas. Or slice raw button mushrooms, and toss them with chopped parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil for a simple side dish.
You can’t beat ’em as a source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. The lycopene in tomatoes act like a sunscreen; eating them cooked can quadruple the SPF in your skin. And the polyphenols in tomatoes thin your blood naturally, so they’re good for your heart. Cook them with broccoli for even greater benefits.
Article Courtesy: Laurie Herr & Sarah Jio