Are you eating a nutrient-rich diet? Chances are there’s room for improvement. Many women aren’t getting enough fiber, healthy fats, potassium, choline, magnesium, calcium, iron, selenium and vitamins A, D and E.
The key to health is to have a plan. The foods you buy and prepare have a direct effect on your heart, breasts, bones, brain and waistline. Check out my top 10 healthiest picks, be sure to add them to your shopping list to boost your nutrition and reduce the risk for chronic diseases.
1. Edamame and tofu: Soy sometimes gets a bad rap, but it still has an important place on your plate. Foods such as tofu, soy milk, and edamame help fight heart disease when they replace fatty meats and cheeses, slashing saturated fat intake. Soy also contains heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats, plenty of fiber, and isoflavones, or plant estrogens, that may also help prevent breast cancer. Studies show that these bind with estrogen receptors, reducing your exposure to the more powerful effects of your own estrogen. But stick with whole soy foods, organic if possible, rather than processed foods, like hotdogs and burgers.
2. Prunes: This nutrient packed fruit is loaded with fibre to help keep hunger at bay and improve your overall GI health. They promote bone health too. Eating five or six prunes daily can help improve bone density and may help slow bone loss in postmenopausal women. Prunes give you much-needed vitamin K, boron, magnesium, potassium and polyphenols. You can enjoy them as an on-the-go snack option or add them to soy yogurt. And like dates, prunes can replace some of the fat in certain chocolate baked goods like brownies or chocolate cake.
3. Berries: These low-glycemic fruit are loaded with nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, fibre and powerful antioxidants, called anthocyanins. Research suggests that blueberries may boost the popular drug tamoxifen’s ability to disarm breast cancer cells. They may also help protect your skin and hair, reduce inflammation and slow age-related memory loss. Pop raspberries or blackberries as a quick and easy (and, of course, delicious) snack, add sliced strawberries to your morning bowl of porridge or granola or freeze blueberries and enjoy them as a sweet treat instead of a sugary dessert.
4. Tomatoes: We take them for granted, but tomatoes are nutrient powerhouses. They’re rich in vitamins A and C, potassium and lycopene, a phytonutrient that’s responsible for their beautiful red colour. Research suggests that lycopene may help reduce the risk of certain cancers (including breast and cervical). Other studies have found that women with the highest blood levels of lycopene slashed their heart disease risk in half. Enjoy both fresh or cooked tomatoes (from a glass jar or BPA-free can). Aside from being convenient, cooked tomato products contain a more absorbable form of lycopene.
5. Pistachios: women who watch their weight (who doesn’t?) often avoid these and other nuts as they’re high in calories and fat. But pistachios are one of the lowest-fat, lowest-calorie nuts and they have a shell, which helps slow down your snacking. Pistachios are also unique in that they are the only nut to have lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that help to reduce age-related macular degeneration, a condition that is more common in women than men.
6. Flaxseeds: a potent plant source of omega-3 fats. Studies suggest that adding flaxseeds to your diet can reduce your risk of heart disease by helping keep red blood cells from clumping together and forming clots that can block arteries. They may also reduce the risk of breast cancer. In one study, women who ate 10 g of flaxseeds (about 1 rounded tablespoon) every day for 2 months had a 25% improvement in the ratio of breast cancer-protective to breast cancer-promoting chemicals in their blood. Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of flaxseed a day on your cereal, salad, or yogurt. Buy it pre-ground, and keep it refrigerated.
7. Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, soybeans and chickpeas): Packed with fibre, which you probably aren’t getting enough of, they may help you peel off pounds by making you feel fuller, longer. What’s more, legumes provide potassium, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins. A recent study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics finds that overweight people who ate a diet rich in beans lost nearly 10 pounds in 16 weeks while also improving their blood cholesterol levels. Stash several cans of beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas in your pantry and use them to whip up fuss-free meals like soups, chili and burritos.
8. Brussels Sprouts: Perhaps you’re not a fan, but these and other cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower. Brussels are a good source of vitamins A and C, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and fibre. They also contain glucosinolates, which have been shown to help protect against cancer. Still sprout-shy? Try this tasty tip: Roast Brussels sprouts with a little olive oil and the seasonings of your choice.
9. Pink Grapefruit: Do you enjoy half a grapefruit before meals? You might want to start. It provides more than half of all the vitamin C you need in a day and is a rich source of fibre and potassium. Grapefruit also helps reduce blood pressure and may help protect against certain forms of cancer, likely due to triple protection from the antioxidant lycopene, the phytonutrient limonoid and the flavonoid naringenin. Another produce perk: Grapefruit contains pectin, a soluble fiber that helps reduce total cholesterol and may aid weight loss.
10. Walnuts: Rich in many beneficial nutrients like magnesium, calcium, vitamin E, fibre, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, walnuts may help protect your breasts. Just two ounces a day was shown to help delay tumor growth in mice, finds a study in the journal Nutrition and Cancer. Experts aren’t sure what compound is responsible for this benefit (the nuts’ phytosterols, which work as antioxidants, the omega-3 fats, polyphenols, carotenoids or melatonin), but there’s one thing on which we can all agree: Walnuts are totally delicious — whether you munch on a handful between meals or add them to a nice beet and vegan cheese salad.
These foods can help fend off serious diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease; fortify your immune system; protect and smooth your skin; and help you lose weight or stay slim. If you’re eating most of these healthy foods already, good for you! If not, now’s the time to load up your shopping cart and supercharge your health!
For nutritional consultations on a wide range of health issues contact Susan Tomassini, Licensed Nutritionist BSc (Hons) Dip BCNH @ 06 17481114 or visit www.foodwise.life for your personalized nutritional program!