What they are: Probiotics are known as “good bacteria” that help with digestion. Probiotics have been found to ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects twice as many women as men. They also reduce the risk of infection by protecting against harmful bacteria.
Where to find them: Yogurt, kefir and dietary supplements are great sources of good bacteria. When choosing yogurt, make sure the brand lists “live and active cultures” on the label. For a healthy probiotic punch, try Greek yogurt, which is chock full of them and boasts double the protein found in traditional yogurt. Like probiotics, protein can help boost your immune system. Avoid fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts, which are loaded with sugar. Instead, try plain and add your own fresh or frozen berries and a drizzle of honey.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
What they are: You’ve probably heard that not all fats are created equal and that consuming some fats is healthy. Fats help you feel full, promote healthy skin and hair, balance hormones, provide long-lasting energy, and absorb fat soluble vitamins. When it comes to fats, it’s important to limit them to less than 30 percent of the total calories you consume and choose the right ones. The healthiest fat choice for women are omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA, which have been linked to the prevention and treatment of heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, and cancer.
Where to find them: Sources of DHA and EPA include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, and anchovies. To get these protective benefits, start incorporating 2-3 servings of fish into your diet each week, and switch out solid fats like butter for plant based oils such as olive, canola, and vegetable.
What it is: Known for its protective properties against prostate cancer, lycopene also boasts health benefits for women. Lycopene is a type of antioxidant, which can prevent cell damage, including cancerous growths. Research shows that lycopene may protect against breast cancer and heart disease, two major health threats for American women.
Where to find them: Lycopene is found in red fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, watermelon, and ruby red grapefruit. Aim to get in 3-5 servings of lycopene-rich foods each week. Try adding sliced tomatoes to sandwiches and pasta dishes, or serving watermelon cubes as a side to any meal.
What they are: Anthocyans are powerful anti-cancer nutrients that can help ward off cancer by aiding in cell repairs. They may also decrease the risk of cancers found in the breast and intestinal tract. Foods that contain anthocyans are also an important source of antioxidants, which also protect cells from damage and the body from heart disease and UV damage from the sun.
Where to find them: Anthocyans are found in blue and red berries, like raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, and blueberries. Aim to get 3-4 servings each week by incorporating them fresh or frozen into your cereal bowl, yogurt cup, smoothie, or enjoyed straight the farmer’s market.
What it is: Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods, which means it doesn’t get absorbed into the blood stream, but does help us flush our digestive systems as it passes through. Women should consume at least 25 grams of fiber a day, but the average American only gets 15. Total fiber intake, of both soluble and insoluble forms, can lower the risk of coronary artery disease, metabolic syndrome, and obesity. High-fiber foods take longer to process, helping you feel full and eat less. Fiber also improves blood sugar control and reduces total cholesterol levels.
Where to find it: Fiber is present in all plant foods, but some are better sources than others. Good sources of soluble fiber include beans, peas, oatmeal, nuts, apples, and berries. Insoluble fiber is often called “roughage” and is found in whole grains like brown rice and vegetables like carrots and dark leafy greens. To avoid digestive issues, start by increasing fiber by 5 grams daily and drinking plenty of water. Since fiber is in so many nutritious foods, spread it out throughout the day by choosing whole grain options, adding fruit to snacks and meals, and adding beans to family favorites.