Essential Foods for Women
Power foods and smart snacks for every lifestage
- Salad: Tossing together a variety of greens (romaine and spinach are rich in vitamin A and folate, while iceberg has fiber), along with tomatoes, carrots, and cucumbers, is the smartest way to sneak vegetables into your diet, explains Joan Salge Blake, a clinical assistant professor of nutrition at Boston University. According to the National Institutes of Health, getting at least three servings of veggies a day can reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. (Just be sure to take it easy on high-calorie dressing!)
- Peanut Butter: Don’t feel guilty for snacking on a spoonful of peanut butter. Peanut butter is chock full of protein, fiber, zinc, and vitamin E. It also contains mostly unsaturated fat, which lowers both total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. “Peanut butter and jelly on whole-wheat bread with a glass of skim milk is a perfect meal,” says Therese Franzese, director of nutrition at Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex, in New York City. But don’t go for the reduced-fat version. “The fat is replaced with sugar, so it has the same calories as the regular stuff,” Franzese explains.
- Sweet Potatoes: These spuds—which are available year round—should be a staple in your diet, not simply a holiday treat. They’re an excellent source of potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and cancer-fighting antioxidants such as beta-carotene.
- Whole-Grain Cereal: One bowl of fortified cereal typically supplies 10 or more vitamins and minerals, as well as complex carbohydrates (for energy), disease-fighting phytochemicals—non-nutrient plant chemicals that help prevent disease. Choose cereals with at least five grams of fiber per bowl.
- Lean Red Meat: Women, especially those who have given birth within the last two years, are at risk for low iron levels, which can lead to anemia. Red meat is an excellent source of iron that’s easily absorbed by the body. Stick with lean cuts—anything with loin or round in the name—for their lower saturated-fat content, and eat no more than one 2-ounce serving (about the size of your palm) each day.
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