Healthy eating is important for everyone, but certain foods are especially good for issues that affect women — like brittle bones, pregnancy, and breast cancer, to name a few. These “super foods” are rich with nutrients that will help to protect your body and keep it working well, even as you age.
Edamame – These tasty soybean pods are full of fiber, good fats, and estrogen-like compounds called isoflavones. Isoflavones can be your friends during menopause, with help cooling hot flashes (1).
Kale – Packed into these green leaves are loads of vitamin K, which works with calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong and healthy. One serving has more than 20% of the daily recommended amounts of vitamins A and C (2).
Asparagus – Asparagus has a ton of bone-building vitamin K. A half cup of asparagus has a third of what you need for the day. It’s also full of folate, which is needed for red blood cell formation, and also helps prevent birth defects like spina bifida (3).
Beans – They have lots of protein, without the fat that comes with meat, and they’re high in fiber. They can lower your blood pressure, blood sugar, and heart rate.
Grapefruit – Grapefruit contains flavonoids, which help lower the likelihood of certain kinds of strokes in women and may also help your heart. Grapefruit may not be a good combo with your medication, so check with your doctor before you put in on the menu.
Berries and Cherries – These fruits have flavonoids and antioxidants, which can protect healthy cells from damage. Berries help keep your brain sharper as you get older. Plus, you need their vitamin C to build collagen, the protein that keeps your skin firm and smooth.
Papaya – Its red-orange color comes from beta carotene and lycopene. Lycopene lowers your chance of getting cervical and breast cancers. It’s an antioxidant, too, and keeps cholesterol and blood pressure at healthy levels to help ward off heart disease.
Sardines – Sardines are swimming with healthy fatty acids, vitamin D, and calcium. Their omega-3 fats can improve the quality of breast milk, and sardines are good for babies whose mothers ate them while they were pregnant. They also have less mercury than most other fish (4).
Flaxseed – Ground flaxseed is bursting with fiber as well as lignans, plant compounds that act like estrogen. These can help lower your risk for some cancers, including breast cancer. Flaxseed oil is a great way to get your omega-3s, but it doesn’t come with the added cancer-fighting benefits.
Spinach – Folate is your friend. On top of its prenatal perks, it’s necessary for building healthy red blood cells, and it may lower your chances for getting dementia, heart disease, and colon cancer. Spinach has folate in spades, and lutein, too. This antioxidant protects the lens and retina in your eye and may even ward off a few wrinkles.
Beef Liver – It may not be at the top of the list of foods you crave, but beef liver is an excellent source of folate and folic acid, beating out top vegetarian contenders like spinach and black-eyed peas by a big margin (5).