Most of us know how to construct a healthy diet, including both the trending superfoods and the old standbys. With long days to defeat, careers to conquer and families to feed, it only makes sense that women tend to arm themselves with knowledge and nutrients. But some foods have nutrition profiles that are especially beneficial to women’s health. Here are five foods that are particularly good at providing the necessities for a healthy female form.
Walnuts, the tree nut that’s just as good caramelized and candied or tossed with cranberries on a salad, are antioxidant superstars. Vitamin E, specifically, can be found in spades in walnuts and has been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer. In fact, walnuts work double time; the omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts pair with phytosterols, a molecule similar to cholesterol, and have potential to slow and reduce breast cancer tumor growth.
Salmon is another well-known source of omega-3 fatty acids. The fish, especially the wild-caught Alaskan variety (recommended for its low contamination and sustainability) is an often-cited healthy source of protein, and for good reason. The omega-3s decrease inflammation and improve the function of our arteries. This makes it the perfect one-two punch of prevention against heart disease, still the number one deadly disease affecting women in the US.
Oats, the humble breakfast basic, have an impressive profile of vitamins and minerals. The real star, however, is the vehicle they arrive in: fiber. Fiber, the part of food that our body doesn’t absorb, is crucial to the parts that our body does, like those vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients. Fiber also lowers LDL, bad cholesterol, and helps lower blood sugar levels by evening out the absorption of sugar. This metabolic harmonizer’s qualities make it an especially good breakfast choice for women approaching or experiencing menopause.
Red-hued fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, watermelon, peppers, and carrots all have their warm tone thanks to one common antioxidant: lycopene. We all know that colorful produce is good for us, but lycopene is emerging as an especially interesting phytonutrient for women’s health. It is used in the prevention of Human papillomavirus, a common cause of cervical cancer, and has also been demonstrated to slow the growth of breast cancers. Lycopene can also work with calcium to strengthen the cells in our bones, a necessity for preventing osteoporosis. For savory dishes, a healthy source of fat like olive oil can be added for bioavailability.
Lentils’ benefits are no secret, and for good reason. They’re delicious, cheap, and versatile. Luckily for women, they also have over 30% of our daily iron needs in one serving. Women are at a significantly higher risk of anemia than men, especially through the reproductive years. Anemia can manifest with weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and a multitude of other symptoms rooted in lower than normal blood cell count. However, a diet rich in iron increases our blood cells’ iron stores, allowing the body to efficiently metabolize and create energy and facilitate oxygen transport throughout the body.
While most women know what healthy foods to reach for, a reminder of how good choices help our bodies through all stages of life can be the best motivation. In the end, the circle of good choices is its own reward. We just need to stay happy, healthy, and hungry.