While there is no medical definition for the word “superfood,” the term is a catch-all for fruits, vegetables and proteins that
qualify as nutritional powerhouses. So-called superfoods deliver important
molecular compounds and trace minerals that help reduce the risk of chronic
disease, while providing a range of other health benefits. In addition
to their vitamin and mineral punch, some of these super substances contain
antioxidants and polyphenols that have the potential to fend off serious
Women, in particular, can take advantage of superfoods to help support their
health through their various stages of life. Superfoods help relieve premenstrual
syndrome (PMS) and symptoms of
menopause, make women’s
bones strong, boost energy, fortify the immune system, keep skin young-looking,
and even help shave off those extra pounds.
There are many types of food that support women’s health, but we’ve
narrowed down this list to five must-haves:
Dark, leafy green vegetables dominate the list of top superfoods, and
kale is the most “super” of them all. Packed with antioxidants
that protect cells, eyes and skin from age-related damage, kale also contains
a phytonutrient that is thought to lessen occurrences of breast and ovarian
cancer. Additionally, kale delivers phytoestrogens that help maintain
hormonal imbalance, and folate that protects embryo development during
pregnancy. The benefits don’t stop there: Kale is a rich source
of iron, calcium and vitamins C, E, B and K, which helps prevent blood
clots and build strong bones. Along with spinach, broccoli and collard
greens, kale can easily be added to soups, salads, rice dishes, pasta
and smoothies, and should be consumed several times per week.
berries are considered by nutritionists to be among the best superfoods in nature,
and among berries, the blackberry rules. All berries, such as raspberries,
strawberries, cranberries and blueberries, contain
antioxidants that neutralize the free radicals that cause cell damage and the effects
of aging. And blackberries contain even more of these phytonutrients,
which are thought to protect against cervical cancer, Alzheimer’s
disease, heart disease, varicose veins and a host of other conditions.
Fortunately, berries are as delicious and easy to eat as they are good
for you. Eat them out of hand, or pop them into yogurt, salads, oatmeal,
smoothies and side dishes. When fresh berries are unavailable, the frozen
varieties are every bit as healthy to use. Aim to incorporate a cup of
berries in your diet daily.
For a healthy, nutritious fish, it’s hard to beat
salmon. Salmon contains the all-important omega-3 fatty acids that balance our
cholesterol, reduce inflammation, improve circulation and may reduce women’s
risk for cancer. Salmon is also a rich source of selenium, which helps
prevent skin-aging cell damage, plus D and B vitamins that are crucial
for keeping energy levels high. Most of all, salmon is a great source
of lean protein. Try to have a few ounces of salmon two or three times
per week (wild-caught Alaska salmon is best). Whether fresh or canned,
salmon is equally good for you and easy to prepare. Broil or sauté
fresh fish and serve on a bed of greens or rice, or fold into pasta. Leftover
cold salmon makes a great sandwich, too.
It’s hard for most of us to resist
avocados, and since they provide so many great nutrients, there’s no reason
we should. Avocados are a heart-healthy superfood, and while they do contain
fats, they are the “good” (monounsaturated) fats that help
lower cholesterol and promote the absorption of vitamins. Avocados contain
other important nutrients like protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium, folate
and vitamins B6, E, and K. The 25 grams or so of fat in an avocado helps
us feel satisfied, so we may avoid turning to meats or high-calorie add-ons.
One half of a rich-tasting avocado per day can be beneficial in preventing
weight gain, while delivering fantastic flavor and nutrition. Chopped
avocado is great in salads, tostadas, egg dishes and casseroles –
they can even be baked into desserts.
All beans are good for you, and
black beans may be even better. The humble black bean is a superfood among superfoods,
jammed with the nutrients that inform the diets of some of the healthiest
cultures in the world. Black beans are full of heart-healthy antioxidants,
calcium, magnesium, iron and vitamins – but almost none of the artery-clogging
saturated fat found in meat. A cup of black beans provides 12 grams of
fiber, which is around half of the recommended daily value for an adult
woman, and around one-third of the daily value for an adult man. Try black
beans in soups, salads, burritos, tostadas, tacos, chili, pasta dishes,
rice dishes and dips.
While these foods don’t check off all the nutrient boxes, including
them in a balanced diet as frequently as possible confers some extra “superpowers”
of health protection that all women can use. For optimum health boost, try
recipes that combine two, three or more superfoods in each meal.
What's your favorite superfood? Leave your list below.