America's Healthiest Superfoods for Women
Superfoods for superwomen
We’ve made that easy to do with Health’s top 10 superfoods for women. They were selected by our panel of experts for their mega benefitsfrom bone building and energy boosting to fat busting and disease fighting.
What’s even more delicious: When you mix and match these America’s Healthiest choices, you get super combos with even more powera breakfast that’s good for your heart, a dinner that fights cancer, a sweet treat that helps keep your tummy calm and mind sharp. Plus, we’ve rounded up 15 delicious, benefit-packed runners-up, too. So read on (and start eating) for a super you.
Wild Alaskan salmon
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, the American Heart Association recommends. Can’t find it fresh? Canned wild Alaskan salmon is almost as good, says Steven Pratt, MD, author of SuperFoods Rx and SuperHealth.
Why choose wild? When scientists at Cornell University 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.
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 Health Senior Food and Nutrition Editor Frances Largeman-Roth, RD. Always in a morning rush? Instant works, too.
How much you need: Add oats (and other whole grains) to your diet throughout the day. The American Heart Association recommends 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber a daythat’s about six times the amount of fiber in an average serving of oatmeal. So eat up!
Cooked or raw, broccoli delivers a nutrient punch, says John La Puma, MD, host of What’s Cooking With ChefMD? and author of ChefMD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine.
How much you need: Eat two or more half-cup servings of cooked broccoli per week.
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.
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.
Related video: Avocado Toast, 4 Ways
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 Liz Applegate, PhD, director of sports nutrition at the University of California, Davis.
How much you need: Enjoy three cups of cooked beans a week. Worried about getting gassy? Build up slowly, David Grotto, RD, suggests. Start with one tablespoon of beans a day and double the amount each week. Rinsing canned beans before using also eases the problem.
Fat-free Greek yogurt is also high in probiotics, cultures that can help ease irritable bowel syndrome, a condition that affects mostly women. And even though the evidence is inconclusive, some experts say probiotics help boost immunity—a plus during flu season.
How much you need: Have at least three servings of dairy a day; fat-free Greek yogurt is a good choice. “It’s a healthy swap for artery-clogging sour cream,” Geagan says.
And that’s not all: findings from a 2008 study in Spain suggested that 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.
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,” Dr. La Puma 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.
Organic milk (fat-free or low-fat)
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.
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.
Raspberries are the main berry source of ellagitannins, a type of antioxidant that may have anticancer effects. They are also a good source of vitamin K, which helps increase bone-mineral density, reducing your risk of fractures.
One cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fiber, a big step toward the 25 grams of fiber per day that women need for protection against colon cancer, digestive disorders, and heart disease, says Kerry Neville, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
How to enjoy: Try Neville’s favorite: a spinach-and-raspberry salad.
A Tufts University study found a strong association between a higher intake of B-vitamin-rich foods—like chard—and decreased risk of cognitive decline. Swiss chard is also a good source of vitamin E and folate, nutrients believed to protect the brain.
How to enjoy: Chop chard, and saute it in olive oil. Or add finely chopped Swiss chard to soups or omelets.
How to enjoy: Toss a watermelon-feta-and-arugula salad. Or sprinkle chile powder on chilled watermelon slices.
How to enjoy: Buy pumpkinseeds in bulk, and toss them into salads and soups. Or add unsalted, raw seeds to the tops of muffins before baking.