From USDA guidelines to the Internet to your local bookstore, there is certainly no shortage of advice on nutrition and healthy eating. But with all the media hype surrounding many “health foods,” it can be hard for a woman to tell the nutrients from advertising ploys.
“We are sometimes led to believe that a specific food is healthier than it really is,” says nutritionist Elizabeth Somer, MS, RD, author of Age-proof Your Body. “Or that you need some exotic or expensive form of certain nutrients to gain benefits -- and most of the time that’s not true.”
Moreover -- as happened in the '90s when low fat cookies made everyone temporarily forget about calories -- Somer says some of today’s advertising sways us toward one healthy aspect of a food to keep us from noticing other, less healthy attributes. “A product may advertise itself as ‘no cholesterol’" she says, “but it still can be loaded with bad fats or tons of calories. You have to look at the total food to know for sure.”
NYU nutritionist Tara Miller, MS, RD, agrees. “You have to read the whole label, look at all the ingredients and the portion sizes, before you know for sure just how healthy a food is.”
Or you can let us do the work for you! To help you zero in on the healthiest foods that women can eat, we asked a panel of experts for their advice.
What follows is a description of the six super foods they say every woman needs. While these foods won’t cover all your nutrient bases, incorporating them into your diet as often as possible can help give you a wide range of protection.
What it does: As a health food, yogurt is almost as old as, well, good health itself. But experts say evidence continues to accumulate that reveals its benefits in many new and exciting ways. And not just yogurt. Somer tells WebMD that any fermented dairy product -- including kefir -- contains healthy “probiotics” -- bacteria with the power to protect you in myriad ways.
“There is a suggestion [that yogurt] may decrease the risk of breast cancer,” Somer says. ”And there’s very strong evidence it can reduce problems associated with irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory digestive tract disorders -- both conditions that impact women more than men.” Additionally, she says, yogurt can help reduce the risk of stomach ulcers and vaginal infections.
Enjoy a cup of yogurt at breakfast, lunch, or snack to help meet the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommendation for three servings of low fat dairy each day. “It’s loaded with bone-healthy calcium -- something every woman needs more of at every age,” Somer says. One cup of yogurt has about 448 mg of calcium, compared to just 300 for eight ounces of skim milk.