The foods you really need to stay you healthy and strong
SUPER FOODS FOR WOMEN: WHAT YOU NEED
Super Food # 1: Low-fat yogurt
Goal: 3 to 5 servings a week
Enjoy a cup of yogurt at breakfast, lunch, or snack. “It’s loaded with bone-healthy calcium — something every woman needs more of at every age,” Expert says. One cup of yogurt has about 448 mg of calcium, compared to just 300 for eight ounces of skim milk.
The key, according to Expert, is to choose a low fat yogurt with live cultures — like Lactobacillus acidophilus. And do check the label, Expert advises. Some store brands may not have the level of cultures found in more established brands.
Also important: Skip the fruit-on-the-bottom or other flavored varieties. “Too much sugar,” says Expert, who also reminds us that, no, those two blueberries on the bottom of the container do not constitute a serving of fruit!
Super Food # 2: Fatty fish — like salmon, sardines, and mackerel
Goal: 2 to 3 servings every week
“Fatty fish not only plays a vital role in the health of the membrane of every cell in our body, it also helps protect us from a number of key health threats,” says Expert.
Some of those threats include heart disease, stroke, hypertension, depression, joint pain, and a number of illnesses linked to inflammation, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Expert says fish may even offer some protection against Alzheimer’s disease.
While many foods — such as walnuts, flaxseed oil, and some mayonnaise brands — claim the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, Somer cautions that only the DHA or EPA forms of omega-3 can be directly used by the body.
The good news: You are likely to see a wheelbarrow full of new products supplemented with DHA slowly making their way to market in the coming year. Currently, Kellogg is reportedly developing a cereal fortified with DHA, while a company called Nutri-Kids has already launched a DHA fortified ready-to-drink milk product. You can also find eggs fortified with DHA and, says Somer, certain brands of soymilk.
Super Food # 3: Beans
Goal: 3 to 4 servings every week
“Beans have been around so long that most people don’t view them as a fancy new health food,” Expert says. “But in fact, they are among one of the healthiest things a woman can eat.”
Researchers found that beans in general, and lentils in particular, may have some protective effects against breast cancer. Doctors found a relationship between a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and a higher intake of legumes. Well known legumes include peas, beans, lentils, and peanuts.
As a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, Expert says, beans can help lower cholesterol, while their level of a nutrient known as isoflavone can help in the regulation of hormones and may aid with PMS, perimenopause, or menopause symptoms. Although soybeans have among the highest levels of isoflavones, other sources include red clover, kudzu, mung beans, alfalfa sprouts, black cohosh, and chickpeas.
“Beans also contain something called protease inhibitors, which may help protect against breast cancer,” says Expert. Protease inhibitors help slow the division of cancer cells and in this way may prevent tumor formation.
Super Food # 4: Tomatoes (or watermelon, red grapefruit, red navel oranges)
Goal: 3 to 5 servings each week
What it does: The powerhouse nutrient in all these fruits is lycopene. And, according to Expert, while the headlines touted its protective effects against prostate cancer, more quiet research has shown it has tremendous health benefits for women as well.
“Research is starting to show that lycopene may protect against breast cancer,” Expert says. “And it’s also a powerful antioxidant that can help a woman fight heart disease.”
The very latest research shows it may also help keep you looking younger longer by protecting against UV damage from the sun.
Super Food # 5: Vitamin D fortified low fat milk or orange juice
Goal: At least 400 IUs of vitamin D daily
What it does: “Essential to helping the bones absorb calcium from the gut,” says Expert, “vitamin D helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis and may be vital in reducing the risk of diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and tumors of the breast, colon, and ovary.”
Vitamin D has the potential to prevent up to one–half of all breast, colon, and ovarian cancer.
Expert tells that a growing body of research indicates many women may be vitamin D deficient. “A combination of staying out of the sun (which the body uses to manufacture vitamin D) and using sunscreen, which blocks the synthesis of vitamin D, has resulted in many women hitting a dangerously low level of this nutrient,” says Expert.
While Vitamin D is found in salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines, experts say fortified foods, such as milk, are the best source.
Super Food # 6: Berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries)
Goal: 3 to 4 servings every week
What It Does: These fruits may protect your body with powerful anti-cancer nutrients known as anthocyans, which are believed to play a role in cell repair. Expert says research shows anthocyans may decrease the risk of several cancers, including those in the breast and gastrointestinal tract.
“These berries,” says Expert, “are also high in vitamin C and folic acid, which is essential for all women in their childbearing years. And they offer powerful anti-oxidant protection, which not only protects the heart but also may protect against skin aging, from the inside out.” Moreover, she tells that cranberries may help reduce the risk of urinary tract infections in women, while the nutrient, lutein found in all the berries, can help protect vision.