Top 10 super foods for women
What foods do you need to stay strong and healthy?
Weird and wacky super foods that are big on promises but sometimes short on substance change all the time. We’ve had yuzi fruit and chai seeds to acacia berries and seaweed. These so-called superfoods often have their moment in the spotlight and then fade away until the next one emerges.It can be hard to work out what’s the latest marketing ploy and what really are the best foods to eat. We asked the experts from the British Dietetic Association for their advice on the healthiest foods for women – the real super foods to include in your diet.
- Apples – We’ve all heard of apples! No strange and novel discovery there, but still a brilliant food to include in your diet.
“It is best to eat apples with the skin on as a lot of its vitamin C is concentrated just under the skin,” says registered dietitian, Perryn Carroll. “In addition to this, the skin provides a great source of insoluble fibre that is good for gut health.”Fibre is essential for a healthy digestive system. Insoluble fibre (‘roughage’) helps prevent constipation. Apple flesh also contains a soluble fibre called pectin, which can help bind cholesterol and lower blood cholesterol levels.
They are good for digestive and bone health. “If you’ve been on antibiotics your gut is stripped of healthy bacteria so pick yoghurt with probiotics or prebiotics to top up your natural levels,” says registered dietitian and BDA spokesperson Sioned Quirke. “Yoghurt contains calcium which is essential for women’s bone health, three dairyfoods a day are recommended and a pot of yoghurt is an easy and portable option,” she says.
Always read the labels on yoghurt as some are high in sugar, fat or both.
3. Oily fish – Salmon, sardines and mackerel contain the health giving omega-3 fats.
“With oily fish the omega-3’s are in the flesh of the fish that’s why it’s a darker colour than white fish,” says Sioned.
“Evidence is still not conclusive,” says registered dietitian and spokesperson for the BDA Sasha Watkins, “but studies suggest that eating oily fish may be protective against macular degeneration which is a cause of blindness in your old age.”
4. Beans and pulses- Pulses are a great low fat protein source providing carbohydrate, fibre and iron.“They are an excellent source of protein, high in fibre with no saturated fat” says Sioned, “which helps with bowel health and longer term digestive problems.”
“The fibre found in pulses has been found to help with lowering blood pressure,” says Perryn.
5. Berries – Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and cranberries not only taste good but are good for us too. They are high in folic acid and vitamin C which offer anti-oxidant protection.
Anti-oxidants are thought to have cancer fighting properties, says Sioned: “A lot of research is being done in this area but the medical profession doesn’t fully understand all of the properties and benefits at the moment.”
Frozen berries are an alternative to fresh and are often cheaper.
“Wholegrain refers to the entire grain, meaning it contains all three layers of the grain in the product,” says Perryn.
“These layers include the fibre rich outer layer, the nutrient packed inner layer and central starch layer. In combination they work together to reduce the risk of developing many common diseases such as heart disease, stroke, some forms of cancer and type 2 diabetes,” she adds.
Many are fortified with folic acid and iron which is particularly good for women as they are more prone to anaemia.
7. Bananas – One of the most portable snacks and much healthier than a packet of crisps or a bar of chocolate.
Powdered extracts of banana and skin has been shown to have an antacid effect, but there’s no evidence so far for fresh bananas
8. Green vegetables- It’s good to include green non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, spinach and green beans in your diet.
A review of six studies by the University of Leicester found that increased green leafy vegetable intake was associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
“For women especially, try to go for leafy green veg because of their good iron content,” says Sioned, to ward off deficiency.
A 2014 study from scientists at University College London confirms the importance of vegetables and fruit in our diet.
Registered dietitian Sasha Watkins says: “It found eating seven or more portions of vegetables and fruit a day reduces the risk of death by cancer and by heart diseaseby 25% and 31% respectively. The research also found that vegetables have significantly higher health benefits than fruit.”
9. Eggs – An egg is one of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat.
“Eggs are protein packed with nutrients such as vitamins D, A, B2 and iron. Contrary to belief, eggs are fine to include in the diet and there are no restrictions to how many we can eat within a balanced diet,” says Perryn.
“Keep these in the fridge for quick meal ideas on busy nights or boil a few and save for salad or sandwich fillers,” she recommends.
10. Water – “This is a super fluid rather than a super food,” says Sioned.
Keeping hydrated is an important thing to do as most of our body is made up of water.
“The chemical signals in our brains for dehydration and hunger are similar so don’t have a snack have a glass of water instead. You may be thirsty not hungry,” she adds.
Foods that really are super
So-called super foods come and go (that’s your hemp and goji berries!) but our experts recommend including the top 10 foods in your diet.
“We often overlook the health benefits of ordinary foods because they are everyday,” says Sasha. “We already know about them and they simply don’t make as ‘super sensational’ newspaper headlines.”
They are the building blocks of healthy eating rather than one minute wonders that don’t always deliver on the hype.