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10 Best Foods For Women

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

Nutritional needs are different for each sex and at every stage of life. Striking a nutritional balance in our stressed-out lives has never been more important -- especially for women who are the quintessential balancing act queens.

These are the people who, more often than not, somehow manage to get the kids off to school in the morning and figure out a carpool/work/after school activity schedule that would make air an traffic controller gasp. She's usually the one getting dinner on the table and taking the dog to the vet, too.

To keep in control, women need to eat right. And at Mr. Bad Food's request, I am here to help them do just that. So here you go, my best foods for women, starting with number 10:

10. Bean There, Done That
Beans should be included in everyone's diet -- they're nutritious, low in fat and are cheap to boot. Be a good bean counter and check out the fiber in beans. There's over 5 grams of fiber in one measly half-cup serving -- that's a whopping fourth of your daily allowance. Pretty good, huh? Even better when you consider that a fiber-rich diet is one of the first components to colon cancer prevention. And with more women dying of colon cancer than breast cancer every year, you've just gotta bring on the beans!

9. Kale to the Chief
Kale is an often-overlooked vegetable that is positively loaded with folate, an important B vitamin for women. Having a deficiency in folic acid during pregnancy may cause neural-tube defects in babies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend that women take in 400 micrograms of folate daily. That's more than twice the current RDA! Don't forget that kale is also an excellent source of vitamin C and calcium, too.

8. Beta Sight
Those orange squashes (and tubers) like pumpkin, butternut squash and sweet potatoes are a gal's best friend. Beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, is just screaming to get out and work its antioxidant magic on your body. All you have to do is eat it! Beta-carotene is thought to help reduce the risk of breast cancer and is responsible for helping your body repair your skin.

7. Just the Flax, Ma'am
Flax seeds and flax seed oil have so much to offer women. For starters, flax is full of Omega 3 fatty acids (EFA's) which may help protect a woman from heart disease (the leading cause of premature death among women) and the pain of arthritis. The fiber in flax is due to lignans, an important type of fiber especially for women. Lignans are thought to be both an antioxidant and phytoestrogen and are currently being studied for their role in cancer prevention. Use care with flax. It would be preferable to grind your own seeds and sprinkle them on your cereal each morning. The EFA's are very fragile and grinding your own (in a clean coffee mill, just for this purpose) is the best way to utilize both the flax's fiber and oils.

6. Iron It Out
Women need to eat more iron-rich foods. Getting iron from food sources (as opposed to a supplement) is a better way to get the iron needed because the form of iron contained in food is much easier to absorb than in pill form. Lean red meats and dark poultry, as well as lentils, are a few of the best sources for iron.

5. Oh Boy, It's Soy!
Phytoestrogen-rich soybeans can help a woman significantly lower her bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise the good (HDL) cholesterol. Tofu is a great way to get soy protein. You can use it in place of ricotta cheese in a lasagna. Use a firm tofu and pulse it in a food processor with a little dried basil and water (just to get the ricotta-like consistency). Hide the tofu container and don't tell the family. They will never know, I promise. (I am an avowed tofu hater, so you know I'm telling the truth here!)

4. Water, Water Everywhere
Hey, don't think you're getting gypped out of a food here. Water IS a nutrient and the fact is, we need it... and plenty of it. Water keeps the fat away, plain and simple. Water may be one of the best tools in the weight loss game. It suppresses the appetite and helps your body metabolize stored fat! Now can you see why water made it to the top ten? Bottoms up!

3. Broccoli Power!
I know it was on the kids' list, but aren't you glad it's on the gal's list, too? That means we can all eat together at the same table! Broccoli is a fabulous source of calcium and contains other important nutrients like potassium and a good smattering of B vitamins, too.

2. Chalk up the Calcium
Women really need to crank it up in the calcium department. The RDA is 800 milligrams a day, but some experts say that isn't enough and it should be more like 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams a day. When you take into consideration the epidemic of osteoporosis among older women, it might not be a bad idea to up your dairy product intake. My personal preference would be yogurt. You get the nutritional extra of beneficial bacteria for good colon health and it's a lot easier to digest than other dairy products.

1. Something's Fishy Here!
Salmon was once turned down in favor of white fish or sole by weight-conscious women. Now that we understand the value of Omega 3 EFA's, it's time to get serious with salmon. Salmon is also high in protein, low in cholesterol and contains quite a few B vitamins, calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium. Don't swim upstream -- net yourself a good helping of salmon!

As a special bonus, Leanne has agreed to share a few tasty recipes from her book Healthy Foods: An Irreverent Guide to Understanding Nutrition and Feeding Your Family Well. Thanks Leanne!

Pistou Vegetable Soup

1 lb. dried white beans, cooked
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic
3 carrots, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
4 potatoes, diced
28 oz. whole tomatoes, diced
1/4 head cabbage, shredded
8 leaves kale, shredded
6 cups chicken broth, canned or homemade
1 tsp. thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Puree half the beans in your food processor and set aside. In a large pot, heat olive oil and saute onion and garlic for about two minutes or until translucent. Add carrot, celery and potato and saute another 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and their liquid, beans, bean puree and seasoning. Let simmer 5 minutes. Add chicken broth to the mixture (sooner if it seems to be drying out). Add cabbage and kale, correct the seasoning and simmer until veggies are completely tender. Serve with a dollop of pesto (either homemade or readily prepared from a jar) on the top.

Serves 12. Per serving: 114 calories, 2g fat, 6g protein, 19g carbohydrate, 5g dietary fiber, 0mg cholesterol, and 419mg sodium.

Pumpkin Bread

1/2 cup honey
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/4 cup safflower oil
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8" or 9" loaf pan. In a large bowl, blend honey, pumpkin, oil, vanilla and eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaf from pan; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack before slicing.

Makes one 12-slice loaf. Per slice serving: 116 calories, 5g fat, 2g protein, 16g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 16mg cholesterol, and 69mg sodium.

Leanne Ely, C.N.C. is the author of Healthy Foods: An Irreverent Guide to Understanding Nutrition and Feeding Your Family Well (Champion Press).
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