Women have unique needs
When it comes to nutrition, the needs of men and women overlap in many areas. But differences exist, too. For instance, women need more iron than men. And pregnant and breastfeeding women have many specific nutrient needs. They need more of many vitamins and minerals—including vitamin C, folate, vitamin B12, iodine, and zinc—than the typical adult. Many more differences in nutritional needs exist, which is why experts weighed in to create this list of summer superfoods handpicked especially for women.
(Also, here are the most affordable superfoods to eat every day.)
These red gems are at their prime availability in the summer. “Cherries contain anthocyanins, the component that gives cherries their rich red color,” notes Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Anthocyanins are flavonoids that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, which help reduce the risk for chronic diseases.” Use fresh cherries in our sour cherry smoothie or cherry vinaigrette. And learn about other foods that can help you beat inflammation.
These crunchy nuts can add nutrition to so many dishes. “One my go-to superfoods for women is walnuts,” says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, a dietitian in New York City and a nutrition partner with California Walnuts. “A preliminary study shows promising results that walnut consumption could play a role in suppressing the growth and survival of breast cancers. Researchers believe that a variety of nutrients in walnuts—including good polyunsaturated fats, antioxidants, and fiber—could be contributing to these positive effects.” Enjoy walnuts at snack time in our trail mix.
“This summertime favorite is full of lycopene, a disease-fighting nutrient benefitting women by helping to lower their risk of cancer and heart disease,” says Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, a dietitian in Osage City, KS. “Since lycopene is fat-soluble, add a healthy fat such as olive oil to tomatoes to boost absorption.” Use them to make our heirloom tomato tart or fresh mango and tomato salsa.
Did you know fresh fruit boasts a super high percentage of water? “It’s literally bursting with fluid,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, a dietitian in Boston, MA. “A cup of cubed watermelon supplies nearly 5 ounces of fluid to help you stay hydrated in the hot summer weather. It also offers the antioxidant lycopene, plus potassium for fluid balance. Freeze it in slices for even more fun.” You can also enjoy watermelon in a smoothie or a salad with feta cheese.
These crunchy seeds pack a big nutrition punch for their size! “Flaxseed, a superfood providing omega-3 fatty acids and lignans, is well known for helping to promote hormone balance,” says Bailee Hart, RDN, a dietitian in Los Angeles. “This can be especially beneficial during menopausal years and is a viable alternative option to hormone replacement therapy. Women in menopause can try adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to their smoothies this summer to help reduce hot flashes, mood swings, and night sweats.” (Here are other natural alternatives to ease menopause symptoms.)
“All berries contain plenty of powerful cancer-fighting nutrients called anthocyanins, which can help reduce the risk of several types of cancer—including breast cancer,” says Melissa Mitri, MS, RD, a dietitian in Milford, CT. These antioxidants also help protect the heart. Try our berry detox smoothie or berry and yogurt parfaits. Also, did you know having berries at breakfast can help you lose weight?
In addition to heart-healthy fats, this green superfood boasts many other nutrients. “Avocado provides vitamins B6, folate, and magnesium,” says nutrition blogger Jeanette Kimszal, RDN. “These compounds are needed for hormone production, and they help with symptoms of PMS.” Folate has other benefits, too. “It is important for women’s health since it helps make DNA and other genetic materials that are especially needed during pregnancy,” notes Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, author of 365 Snacks for Every Day of the Year. Whip up our breakfast sandwiches with smashed avocado.
“This grain is loaded with fiber and protein to aid with weight control and digestion,” says nutrition blogger Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD. The combination of fiber and protein helps to keep you fuller for longer, which can help decrease the urge to snack. Mix quinoa into our kitchen sink quinoa salad or nutty and fruity quinoa salad with maple vinaigrette.
“Let’s be real: Women need chocolate,” says nutrition blogger Michele Fumagalli, RD. “Luckily, a serving of 70 to 85 percent dark chocolate is a perfect way to satisfy a craving while also providing powerful antioxidants, fiber, and magnesium. Have a square of dark chocolate with your coffee.” The flavonoids in chocolate can also help your brain function optimally, finds research. Unsweetened cocoa powder also does the trick, and this antioxidant-rich food mixes well into many recipes. You need to try our chocolate avocado brownies.
These protein sources boast many nutrients that are helpful to women. “Eggs provide choline, a nutrient not only tied to brain health and development but also a reduced risk of breast cancer,” says Sarah Anzlovar, MA, RDN, a dietitian in Boston, MA. For a brunch (or breakfast-for-dinner) dish that’s sure to impress, try Spanish-style eggs.
When iced, green tea makes a refreshing summer drink. In addition to providing heart benefits, green tea is a superfood beverage for women because it provides antioxidants that may help protect the skin from aging caused by UV rays. Chill out under the sun with our green tea & mango smoothie.
Here’s a reason to eat your purple fruit: “Prunes contain vitamin K and potassium, which are important for healthy bones,” says nutrition blogger Josten Fish, RD. “Studies have actually shown that daily consumption of prunes in women can help prevent bone loss.” Try eating them in dried fruit compote.
This peppery-tasting veggie is perfect to add to your summer salads and more. “Arugula is a flavorful, nutrient-dense leafy green to enjoy all summer long,” says Emily Wunder, RD, a dietitian in Nutley, NJ. “With only 10 calories for two cups, arugula can be a great base to all your summer salads, or you can add it to a sandwich.” Arugula provides an excellent amount of vitamin K, too. “Women need vitamin K for bone density to help prevent osteoporosis,” says Wunder. Enjoy the power green in a salad with strawberries or a salad with prosciutto, pear & Parmasean.
Amy Gorin is a freelance writer, registered dietitian, and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.