Women have been blessed with the huge responsibility of procreation. This entails different phases in their lives that require unique nutritional demands, primarily due to the changes in their hormonal levels.
Stating the obvious, women work round the clock-taking care of the family, raising the kids, shopping, cleaning the house, and cooking meals, and for those who have a career with a work schedule, balancing jobs and a family is a predicament.
With all that they do, women often take their health for granted. A balanced diet, proper sleep, and daily exercise are indispensable for maintaining good health.
With lesser calorie demands than men, women have higher nutritional requirements owing to the biological changes that take place inside their bodies. During the course of their lives, in their different phases of menstruation, pregnancy, lactation, and menopause, there is a hormonal imbalance. This fluctuation in their hormonal levels drives their unique nutritional requirements.
The ever-changing hormonal highs and lows make women more vulnerable to diseases such as osteoporosis, anemia, breast and cervical cancers, cardiovascular ailments, gastrointestinal distress, and slower metabolism, many of them being reflected post menopause.
Women should personalize their diet to maintain a healthy body without consuming too many calories. Adopting healthy and wholesome food choices can supply you with the necessary dose of daily nourishment, ensuring both physical and mental well-being during every phase of your life.
Foods that Women Should Incorporate in their Diet
Here are 10 nutritious and healthy foods for women.
1. A Probiotic Dose of Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a notch above the regular yogurt due to its higher protein content. The processing of Greek yogurt involves straining the excess water. The final product is a smooth, creamy-textured, and more nutritious yogurt with higher quantities of saturated fat and protein.
Compared with regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is fortified with a higher protein content that is essential to maintain the structural framework of your body by promoting cell growth, building muscle mass, and helping in the repair of tissues. Proteins are those magic molecules that can work wonders to maintain your overall health.
Greek yogurt is a storehouse of probiotics, primarily due to the presence of a live active culture of bacteria and yeast. These healthy bacteria keep your gut hale and hearty by improving digestion and preventing gas and bloating. They have also been reported to ameliorate the severity of and help treat irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis.(1)
Greek yogurt has been associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer, stomach ulcers, and vaginal infections.
The significant calcium content helps in strengthening the bones and muscles. Greek yogurt harbors considerable amounts of vitamin B12, which is required in the various biochemical pathways including the formation of red blood cells. Plain Greek yogurt has a lower carbohydrate content and can be included in a diet aimed at weight loss.
If you are lactose intolerant, Greek yogurt is what you should look for. This is because of the straining process where the excess water is drained out and much of the lactose is lost.
Eat at least 3 servings of fat-free Greek yogurt daily. For extra flavor and nutrients, add fresh fruits to the Greek yogurt.
2. Spill the Beans in Your Diet
There are over 40,000 varieties of beans that are available in canned, frozen, and dry forms. These include soybeans, red beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, fava beans, cannellini beans, and navy beans to name a few.
Belonging to the legume family, beans have a high percentage of fiber, protein, and flavonoids. Beans are rich in vitamins and minerals and low in fat.
Beans are abundant in soluble fiber, which assists in lowering the levels of triglyceride and cholesterol. Regularly partaking beans helps burn fat, control blood sugar, and protect against heart diseases and breast cancer.(2)
Beans play a crucial role in stabilizing female hormones including estrogen. Beans are rich in iron, making them a steady supplier of folic acid. Pregnant women should include beans in their diet to reap its multiple benefits.
Eat at least 3-4 servings of beans every week. You can cook beans as a main dish with rice and include them in soups, salads, casserole dishes, hummus, and spreads or dips.
3. Add Tomatoes to Your Diet
Tomatoes are botanically classified as fruits but consumed as a vegetable. Available throughout the year, tomatoes are host to many antioxidants such as lycopene and vitamin C.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in tomato have been associated with its action against cervical and breast cancers,(4) making it an essential component of a woman’s diet.
Ditch your chemical sunscreens and embrace tomatoes. The lycopene in the tomato behaves in a way similar to sunscreens and protects your skin from harmful U-V rays. The polyphenols in tomatoes promote the health of your heart by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.(5)
Eat 3-5 servings of tomatoes each week. You can eat them plain; add them to your bruschetta, fruit or vegetable salad, pasta, and lasagna; or cook them with other healthy vegetables for additional benefits.
4. Hop on the Berry-Go-Round
With so much brouhaha about these nutritious foods, it’s the berries that seem to be the cynosure of everyone’s eyes. Berries are packed with a wallop of nutrition predominantly antioxidants.
Anthocyanin, a dominant antioxidant present in berries, has been extolled for its role in lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and lowering the risk of heart attack and urinary tract infections in women.(6)
Strawberries are the most popular berries in the USA and are rich in vitamin C and potassium. They are also good for immunity. Strawberries have also been identified with a decreased risk of cancers in women, including those in the breasts and gastrointestinal tract.
Blueberries have been associated with improved memory and positive effects on premature aging, inflammations in the digestive system, and lipid profile. Housing a truckload of anthocyanins, raspberries are fibrous and can be used as a weight loss supplement.
Eat 1-2 cups of berries daily and supplement yourself with your daily requirement of antioxidants. You can eat your berries plain; add them to salads, yogurt, muffins, and oatmeal; or blend them into a smoothie of your choice.
5. Go the Salmon Way
Salmon is chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids and proteins. For a natural supplement of these essential fatty acids, salmon is the best source.
Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful in improving brain function. These are effective in increasing the levels of good cholesterol to maintain a healthy circulatory system, boost your mood, and protect you against Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.(7)(8)
Low in calories and high in energy-sustaining protein, salmon is known to increase cognitive function and neurological health. Salmon also contains modest amounts of vitamin D, which is essential to reduce the risk of osteoporosis that is known to affect women more than men.
Pregnant women should increase their salmon intake for healthy fetal development and knock out postpartum depression.
Eat 2-3 servings of salmon in a week. Grill, smoke, or bake your salmon; choose the one that suits you best.
6. Indulge in a Guilt-Free Pleasure with Some Dark Chocolates
Chocolates are prepared from raw cocoa beans after a rigorous manufacturing process. Dark chocolates contain 50%-90% cocoa solids, in comparison with the 10%-50% quantity of cocoa solids in milk chocolates. Well known for their bitter taste, dark chocolates come with myriad benefits associated with good health.
Cocoa beans are rich in antioxidants, catechins, and flavanols, which have been associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, heart diseases, blood pressure problems, inflammation, and in turn mortality.(9)
Dark chocolates are packed with minerals such as magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, selenium, and phosphorus that are required by various biological processes to carry out different bodily functions. Eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate can replenish your daily mineral requirement.
Eat just 1/4 ounce of dark chocolate daily. When buying dark chocolate, opt for one that is at least 70% cocoa to actualize its antioxidant potential and benefits.
7. Chow Down on Almonds
Almonds are replete with nutrients, namely, protein, good-quality fats, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, selenium, folate, and vitamin E and A. This stellar nutritional profile speaks volumes about the wonders almond does to a woman’s health.
Regular partaking of almonds can lower bad cholesterol, control blood sugar and blood pressure levels, boost brain power, help you sleep better, prevent heart disease, and fight cancer through its antioxidant action.(10)(11) Recently, it has been found that eating almonds can help you lose weight and reduce belly fat.
Eat 1 ounce or about 1/8 of a cup of almonds daily. Almonds make a healthy snack that is filling and satisfying. Also, you can add chopped almonds to salads, yogurt, or whole grain cereals.
8. Say Yes to Avocados
Recently, the world has been deluged by an avocado frenzy, and it is overwhelming. Avocados are one of the healthiest fruits, abundant in healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
The high potassium levels in avocado promote healthy blood pressure levels. The monounsaturated fatty acids present in avocado contribute to a humongous proportion of the health benefits associated with it. Avocados are loaded with nutrients including fibers, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, folate, protein, and vitamin B6, K, and E.
The healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (primarily oleic acid) present in avocados are helpful in maintaining the health of your heart and reducing the risk of cancer and inflammation. These healthy fats help in the absorption of nutrients from other plant-based foods and fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K.(12)
While the high proportion of healthy fats keep you satiated for a long time, the high fiber and low carbohydrate content promote weight loss by maintaining your calorie intake. Women aspiring for weight loss should include avocado in their diet along with an exercise regimen.
Eat half an avocado daily. If you are trying to lose weight, reduce it to one-fourth. You can eat it as a filling in your toasts, season it on your eggs, eat it plain, or include it in your salad, smoothie, and dips (such as the usual guacamole).
9. Use Olive Oil for Cooking
Because of the health benefits, the obsession for olive oil is overpowering, and everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. Olive oil is a storehouse of a high proportion of monounsaturated fats, oleocanthal, antioxidants, and vitamin E and K.
Olive oil is purported to prevent colon, breast, and skin cancers. This preventive property is attributed to its presence of phenolic antioxidants and anti-cancerous compounds.(13)
Olive oil has high proportions of monounsaturated fats. It also contains biophenols and plant sterols that help in lowering blood pressure and preventing heart diseases. A diet rich in olive oil is known to help reduce the risk of chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart ailments.
Consume 2 tablespoons of olive oil each day. Use it as a dressing for your soups and salads, as seasoning to your hummus or bread, and as an ingredient in marinades.
10. Nourish Yourself with Dark Leafy Greens
Dark green leafy vegetables have always got a hackneyed acknowledgment as salads. Apart from being fibrous, these contain high levels of potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, folate, and various vitamins, namely, C, E, and K. Being nutritionally dense, dark leafy greens are a necessary addition to the diet of women of all age groups.
Dark leafy greens are packed with antioxidants, amino acids, and powerful phytochemicals such as phylloquinone, beta-carotene, and chlorophyll. Being such nutritional powerhouses, dark leafy greens are linked with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes; they help in maintaining blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
The vitamin K in these vibrant green vegetables helps in the biological process of blood clotting. Vitamin K is an essential cofactor in the cascade of reactions that result in the clotting of blood.
Spinach is beneficial for its countless effects on the overall health of your heart, skin, eyes, bones, and liver.(3) The presence of vitamin C and calcium in leafy greens such as kale and collards is related to healthy teeth, skin, and bones.
Collards, spinach, and Swiss chard, host plenty of beta-carotene, which is the precursor of vitamin A and plays a significant role in clear vision and healthy skin.
Eat half a bowl of dark leafy green vegetables daily. Dark leafy greens including kale, lettuce, Swiss chard, collards, and spinach can be eaten raw, steamed, and sautéed. These can be consumed as soups, salads, juice, and smoothies seasoned with your favorite herbs and spices.
Benefits of Nutritious Foods
Over the last two decades, there has been a rampant upsurge in the food and health industry about the concept of nutritious foods.
Every year, there is a food item that’s making headlines and is labeled as being a “must have” in your diet. Their soaring popularity is attributed not only to the diverse range of nutrients that they are abundant in but also to the multiplicity of health benefits they offer.
Boasting of a rich nutrient profile which includes antioxidants, flavonoids, essential fatty acids, lean proteins, vitamins, and minerals such as iron, calcium, and potassium, these food items act as purveyors of good health.
As far as women’s health is concerned, their superlative nutritional status covers almost all the bases: from strengthening bones, boosting immunity, improving brain function, and fighting against diseases to busting fat and improving the skin. The list of perks is endless.
Now and then we come across some research-based analysis on how dietary changes have had positive impacts on the human body. The likely effects of a balanced diet fortified with adequate vitamins, minerals, lean proteins, healthy fats, moderate carbs, and plenty of water cannot be undermined.
Thus, it is imperative for women to perpetually consume a diet abundant in vitamins and minerals such as iron, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and potassium to ensure that they are in the best of their health.
Choosing the right food can help you be an excellent version of yourself: smarter, leaner, and stronger. Here is our list of top 10 nutritious foods that you need to include in your daily diet for a healthy body and a productive mind.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Mr. Jonathan Valdez (RDN)
What are the daily nutritional needs of a woman?
It is important that all humans incorporate a wide variety of foods from all food groups in their diet. This includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, low-fat or fat-free dairy, and lean protein. However, when it comes to nutrition, women have needs that vary from men’s in many stages of life.
In general, women should consume at least three-ounce equivalents of whole grains, three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products, five to five and a half ounce equivalents of protein, two cups of fruits, and two-and-a-half cups of colorful veggies a day.
Iron is of utmost importance when it comes to women’s health, as it helps to keep women healthy and energized prior to menopause. Folate and folic acid are important during the reproductive years as they ensure the baby will grow healthy, without any birth defects. The requirement for women who are not pregnant is 400 micrograms per day. However, this increases to 500-600 micrograms per day once a woman becomes pregnant.
Calcium and vitamin D are also important to ensure healthy bones and teeth. Calcium also reduces the risk of osteoporosis, which is higher in women than in men. It is important for women to make sure they are balancing their calories with their exercise in order to achieve optimum health.
What are some healthy breakfast options for women?
Some healthy breakfast options for women include:
- whole grain oatmeal with berries and cow’s milk/soy milk alternative, vegetable omelet filled with your favorite veggies, cheese, and low sodium meats with a side of fruits.
- granola with fruit and cow’s milk/soy milk alternative
- hard boiled eggs with turkey bacon and sliced tomatoes
What foods should be avoided by women over 50 years of age?
As a woman ages, it becomes more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. In order to stay in top-notch shape throughout your lifespan, a few things are important to keep in mind. For example, you should still be consuming an abundance of leafy greens, fruits, lean meats, fat-free dairy, and whole grains.
Overall calorie intake needs decline after 30 years of age. So as you get older the discretionary calories allowed to eat to prevent weight gain begins to decline.
What is the recommended daily calorie intake for an average woman?
A woman needs to consume around 2000 calories per day to maintain current body weight.
What foods can trigger hot flashes during menopause in women?
Alcohol, excess sugar, caffeine, dairy products, meat products, and spicy foods can trigger hot flashes during menopause in women.
Please provide some healthy tips or inputs regarding the nutritional needs of women.
The most important thing is that you’re eating a varied diet that follows the Dietary Guidelines for Americans or related to your specific country’s recommendation, drinking your water, and getting plenty of exercises as recommended by your individual country.
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