How to best meet your unique health needs.
Despite efforts to address gender differences in healthcare in recent years, research at the Center for Excellence in Women’s Health at the University of Arizona concludes “the major advances and measures of the health of women did not focus on specific changes to individual women in illness management, clinical care, or individual behavioral changes,” suggesting that more needs to be done.
Women tend to take better care of their health—engaging in fewer risk taking behaviors than men—which helps explain why they tend to live longer. But a new study at Syracuse University shows that the “enduring role of stress in women’s health” negatively impacts their quality of life. And research at the University of Surrey finds that, as they grow older, “women are less likely to assess their health as being poor than men.”
From chronic fatigue and thyroid problems to osteoporosis and urinary tract infections (UTIs), women are at greater risk. In addition, environmental factors—from unwanted toxins in our air, food, and water to the newest threat from electromagnetic pollution, a source of “stealth stress”—affect women who tend to be smaller and subject to more hormonal changes over the lifecycle than men.
Dr. Ann Louise’s Take:
Prevention is always the best medicine. Based on scientific research, as well as my own professional experience, here are the top 10 foods to support women’s health—meeting our unique nutritional needs so that we can enjoy our longer lives.
1. Artichokes are number 1 on the USDA’s list of best veggies thanks to their high antioxidant capacity, protecting the liver from toxins and boosting glutathione by 50%. New Italian research finds artichokes a promising alternative to digestive distress—a problem that pharmaceutical drugs often fail to relieve. No matter how you cook them, artichokes appear to calm inflammation and aid in cell repair, helping to protect against chronic disease as well as exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs).
2. Berries are also antioxidant superstars. One cup of blueberries, for instance, contains more than a third of the vitamin C you need each day, plus kaempferaol, a phytochemical that can cut the risk for ovarian cancer by 40%. An all-time favorite of mine, cranberries are even higher in antioxidants, and evidence suggests they not only prevent tumor growth but also raise good HDL cholesterol while lowering bad LDL levels. These bright red berries even kill H. plori bacteria linked to ulcers and fight formation of dental plaque, while drinking unsweetened cranberry juice prevents urinary tract infections in women.
3. Crucifers (including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale) are high in antioxidants plus sulfur, which enhances the body’s production of glutathione. Just chewing a floret of broccoli or cauliflower helps activate the phytochemical indole-3-carbinol, which studies show fights cancers, particularly of hormone-dependent breast tumors. I recommend cooking (at least briefly) most cruciferous veggies, though, since when eaten raw, these veggies may interfere with thyroid function.
4. Cherries—when tart—and their juice are rich in melatonin, the antioxidant hormone that regulates circadian rhythms and helps promote sound sleep—without which we’re more likely to pack on pounds and develop diabetes and heart disease. Anti-inflammatory, low-glycemic, and radioprotective, tart cherries and their juice contain more melatonin than is found in human blood, finds Russel Reiter, PhD, at the University of Texas Health Science Center. Eat them fresh or dried, and mix a bit of tart cherry juice with water, particularly when you’re working out—to lessen joint inflammation from exercise.
5. Leafy greens (including arugula and other salad greens, collards, spinach, and Swiss chard) are high in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K, so important to bone health, as well as the phytochemicals, lutein and zeaxanthin, that protect both cardiovascular and eye health. If you’re perimenopausal or menopausal, eating your greens—rich in folic acid—can even fight hot flashes and the blues. And if you’re ready to start a family, folic acid in leafy greens helps prevent neural tube birth defects in the early days of pregnancy.
6. Protein powders are easily assimilated and low in saturated fat and environmental toxins, making them a great source of vital nutrients. Protein helps boost metabolism by stimulating thyroid function and provides a steady energy source because it stabilizes blood sugar levels. I recommend Fat Flush Whey Protein—pure, undenatured, and unheated—to preserve fragile amino acids as well as essential fatty acids, while helping to produce glutathione that fights toxins, aging, and disease. Vegans or anyone allergic to whey can use Fat Flush Body Protein, a delicious combination of pea protein and brown rice with one of the highest protein efficiency ratios available.
7. Sea vegetables (agar, arame, hijiki, kombu, nori, sea palms, and wakame) have some of the highest mineral content of any plants—especially calcium, iron, and iodine (the latter of which supports thyroid health)—all vital for women). Sea veggies are well known to protect against environmental pollutants; McGill researchers find that the alginic acid they contain reduces the amount of radioactive materials absorbed through the intestinal wall. If you haven’t yet developed a taste for these superfoods, a dash of Seaweed Gomasio (a seasoning combining them with sea salt) on other foods will do just fine.
8. Seeds like chia and flax offer a wealth of health benefits for women. Considered the world’s most fiber-rich food, Whole Chia Seeds have twice the protein of other seeds and grains, 8 times more anti-inflammatory omega 3s than salmon, and 3 times the antioxidants in blueberries. In addition to fiber and omega 3s, Organic Cold Milled Flax Seeds are rich in lignans, which a new meta-analysis suggests can reduce the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women by 15%.
9. Walnuts are the ideal protein snack for women—with significant amounts of omega-3s. The USDA is studying the potential of walnuts in protecting nerve cells in the brain that degenerate with aging—so nibble on these nutritious nuts and toss a few into salads and/or stir frys for extra crunch appeal.
10. Yogurt is one of the most easily assimilated sources of calcium. It’s easily digested, less likely to cause allergic reactions than other dairy foods, and rich in probiotics, beneficial bacteria vital to healthy digestive and immune systems. Yogurt is also an unexpected source of iodine, helping to promote better thyroid function. My favorite is creamy Greek-style yogurt.
Fat Flush for Life
Super Nutrition for Women