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7 Foods Every Woman Must Eat

7 Foods Every Woman Must Eat

Here's good-food news: The more you munch on healthy eats, the less you need to worry about Friday night's fat burger and fries. Who says? Harvard. Its medical school has found that women who routinely nibble nutritious foods slash their risk of dying from the usual culprits, including heart disease and cancer. To up your odds of living a long and healthy life -- despite occasional blowouts at T.G.I. Friday's -- make sure you regularly include these seven nutritional powerhouses in your diet. "They're the cream of the healthy-foods crop," says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of Age-Proof Your Body.

1. Berries
Why: Ounce for ounce, berries have more protective plant antioxidants than almost any other food. "These compounds not only lower your disease risks, they help prevent memory loss," says Somer.

How Much: Aim for a cup of berries -- any berries, fresh or frozen -- at least three times a week (berry researchers say eat a cup daily). Since berries are high in fill-you-up fiber, they may also help curb weight gain.

How:

  • Toss them in salads.
  • Snack on them one by one, like healthy potato chips.
  • Add them to yogurt, cereal, and smoothies.
  • Stir them into anything you bake.

2. Salmon
Why: Sure, salmon is a prime source of omega-3s, the healthy fats that fend off heart disease and maybe more, but are you aware that a mere 3 ounces of the fish serves up 170% of your daily vitamin B12 and more than 80% of your D.

How Much: Aim for two servings a week (and if you substitute tuna for one serving, that's okay).

How:

  • Broil, bake, or poach it with dill.
  • Toss it into pasta dishes and salads.

If you're vegetarian or just not a fish eater, get the key omega-3 fat called DHA in:

  • Silk Plus Omega-3 DHA Soymilk
  • Horizon Organic Milk Plus DHA
  • Oh Mama! Nutrition Bars
  • Gold Circle Farm Eggs
  • Rachel's Wickedly Delicious Yogurts

3. Leafy Greens
Why: It's almost impossible to meet your nutritional needs without eating dark leafy greens, from spinach and romaine to collard greens and chard. They're huge sources of fiber; vitamins C and K; folic acid (a B vitamin that guards the heart and memory and fights birth defects); lutein, a vision protector; and four essential minerals: calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium.

How Much: Two servings a day -- and the darker, the better.

How:

  • Add arugula to your sandwich.
  • Layer chard into lasagna.
  • Fold spinach into omelets.
  • Add any green to stir-fries, pasta dishes, and soup.

4. Whole Grains
Why: They have up to 96% more fiber, magnesium, zinc, chromium, and vitamins E and B6 than refined grains. This nutritional powerhouse helps prevent the same health problems that refined grains help cause: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and even obesity.

How Much: Ideally, all of the six daily grain servings you need should be whole, unrefined grains, but aim for at least three.

How:

  • Start your day with oatmeal or whole-grain cold cereal.
  • Use 100% whole-wheat bread for toast and sandwiches.
  • Switch to whole-wheat couscous and pasta.
  • Opt for brown rice (instant is fine), whole-grain pretzels, even whole-wheat tortillas.

5. Nuts
Why: They're excellent sources of protein, magnesium, and B and E vitamins -- trusty fighters in the war against heart disease and cancer. Yes, nuts are high in fat calories, but their fat is the heart-healthy kind. Replace junky snacks with them and you won't gain an ounce.

How Much: Up to five small fistfuls a week (roughly 1/4 cup or about 15–20 almonds, cashews, walnuts, or pecans).

How:

  • Sprinkle plain or toasted nuts instead of croutons on salads.
  • Mix them into cooked couscous and brown rice.
  • Stir them into cereal and yogurt.
  • Use them to garnish a stir-fry just before serving.

6. Golden Veggies
Why: Just one serving of fiber-filled, deep-yellow-orange vegetables supplies five times the beta carotene you need daily to lower your cancer risk, defend against colds and other infections, and protect your skin from sun damage. The potassium in these veggies also keeps your heartbeat in sync and your blood pressure down.

How Much: Aim for two half-cup servings a day, the equivalent of one sweet potato, 12 canned apricot halves, or a cup of butternut squash or carrots.

How: Try this sweet potato quickie from Somer's The Food & Mood Cookbook:

Cajun Sweet Potatoes:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cut sweet potatoes into 1-inch thick slices, and toss with olive oil, Cajun seasoning, and freshly ground pepper.
3. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly brown and cooked through, but still slightly crunchy.

7. Yogurt
Why: Low- or no-fat plain yogurt is a terrific source of B vitamins, protein, calcium and -- if it has active cultures -- the healthy bacteria known as probiotics, which crowd out disease-causing germs.

How Much: Four or more cups a week, if this is your main dairy source.

How: Cut back on sugar and calories by choosing plain yogurt and adding fruit, especially berries, and some granola. Or be more inventive:

  • Mix a dash of vanilla and chopped mint into yogurt and dollop on fruit.
  • Use yogurt instead of sour cream for dips, sauces, and salad dressings.
  • Top baked potatoes with yogurt and chives.
  • Thicken sauces and make soups "creamy" with yogurt.

Are you or someone you know getting ready to tie the knot? Here's our "Big Day" diet advice.

Medically reviewed in July 2019.

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