Superfoods help meet nutritional needs for women, men

Today’s working woman is a busy woman as she balances professional responsibilities with family needs.

But when it comes to fueling up for this 24-7 schedule, a woman’s nutritional needs are basically the same as her male counterpart, said Plattsmouth Hy-Vee Dietitian Whitney Larsen, RD, LMNT.

“Everybody needs to eat a good variety of things because every food group gives us a different nutrient,” Larsen said. “Men and women are very similar in their nutrition needs. The difference that comes to play is if a person runs and exercises or if they just sit at a desk all week. Basically, we all need the same food products. I tell people that you can eat everything in moderation. It’s all about balance and moderation.”

There are, however, a few super foods that help both men and women stay on top of their game in today’s hectic world.

“Super foods are not just low in calories and good sources of nutrients. They are superior sources of antioxidants —essential nutrients that our body needs but cannot make on its own,” Larsen explained.

For example, beans/legumes are especially rich in B vitamins, iron, folic acid, potassium and magnesium.

“Beans and legumes are great sources of inexpensive, low-fat protein,” she said. “Weekly consumption of three to five-half-cup servings may lead to lower cholesterol, decreased constipation, more stable blood sugar levels, reduced cancer risk and a healthier heart.”

In fact, one half cup of red kidney or pinto beans is higher in antioxidants than one cup of blueberries, Larsen said.

Berries, however, are also excellent antioxidants. “Raspberries are high in fiber, manganese and niacin while cherries are rich in melatonin, which may promote sleep,” Larsen said. “Phytonutrients in blueberries act as antioxidants to protect cells from damage that may lead to cataracts, glaucoma, peptic ulcers, heart disease and cancer.”

Larsen suggests people incorporate berries into their diet two times a week.

Salmon, tuna and mackerel are the “Big 3” to eat regarding fatty fish.

“Eat at least two servings of fish, one being fatty fish, weekly. Fish provides high quality protein low in saturated fat as well as vitamins, minerals and essential omega -3 fatty acids,” Larsen said. “Health benefits of fatty fish include decreased risk for heart disease and high blood pressure.”

Larsen added that fatty fish are a food source of Vitamin D, important for possible cancer prevention.

Green is good when it comes to nutrition. Greens include arugula, collard, kale, spinach, mustard and turnip. This category also includes Belgian endive, bok choy, escarole, radicchio, romaine and green leaf lettuce. Generally rich in vitamins A and C, iron, calcium and potassium, greens and potassium, greens have individual characteristics making them superfoods.

“Arugula is a good source of folate,” Larsen said. “It has a peppery taste making it a natural for Mediterranean dishes. Collard greens are a good source of fiber and folate and spinach is high in Vitamin K and fiber and is an excellent source of magnesium.”

Larsen said plan, low-fat Greek yogurt is the best choice, because it is lower in sugar and carbohydrates.

“Greek yogurt will not separate when heated, making it ideal for baking and cooking. Its thickness makes it a great alternate to sour cream in dips and sauces,” she said.

Nuts are an excellent snack food, because they contribute protein, healthy mono-unsaturated and poly unsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals to a person’s diet.

“Eat almonds to improve cardiovascular health,” Larsen said. “Thanks to the high levels of monounsaturated fats, nuts may have cholesterol lowering properties.”

Cashews are very rich in essential minerals including iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and manganese.

“Hazelnuts have high levels of Vitamin E and many phytonutrients important for a healthy immune system,” Larsen said. “Pecans are beneficial due to their antioxidant properties and contribution to cardiovascular health.

Walnuts are a supersource of ALA omega-3 fatty acids and may play a role in healthy weight loss.

“Added to cereals, breads, salads, side dishes or eaten as is, nuts can be a super addition to a healthy diet,” she said.

Whole Grains

Whole grain foods are made from all three parts of the grain – bran, germ, and endosperm.

“A good rule of thumb is to eat three or more whole-grain one-ounce servings of whole grain products daily,” Larsen said.

She said there are many “new” grains on the market gaining popularity including quinoa, a gluten-free seed frequently used in Indian and Mediterranean dishes.

“It contains high quality protein, B vitamins, phosphorus, iron and calcium,” Larsen said. “Farro is another popular grain in Northern Italy. Farro is a firm, chewy and low-in-gluten grain.”

Amaranth is a seed high in protein and low in fat. “It can be dry roasted on the stove like popcorn or consumed as cereal. “Kamut is a chewy, buttery-tasting grain with many uses. It may be substituted for whole wheat flour in recipes.”

Super Seeds: Chia and Flax

Chia Seed is a heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory seed and has one of the highest plant-based omega-3 fatty acid sources available.

“Ounce for ounce, chia seeds provide more omega-3’s than salmon and two times as many omega-3’s as flax,” Larsen explained. “One-half ounce of chia seeds has the same amount of fiber as three bowls of oatmeal or six tomatoes. Chia uniquely can absorb nine times its weight in liquid and form a consumable gel helpful in controlling hunger and reducing cholesterol.”

Larson said the antioxidant contest in chia seeds is comparable to most fruits and vegetables. “They are also high in protein,” she said.

Chia seeds are great when added to soups, cold or hot cereal, smoothies, pancake batter, salads, beverages and even baked goods.

Flax seeds also have many health benefits.

“They have soluble fiber to help remove cholesterol from the body and insoluble fiber for better digestion and relief form constipation,” she said.

The lignans in flax have anti-inflammatory properties and are a natural phytoestrogen that may help protect against hormone-sensitive breast and endometrial cancers.”

“To get the most nutritional benefits from flax seeds, they should be ground into meal and stored in the refrigerator or freezer,” Larsen said. “Just like chia, flax is very versatile and can be used in casseroles, cereals, smoothies and pancakes.”

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