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The Six Super Foods Every Woman Needs

The foods you really need to stay you healthy and strong

Super foods for women: What you need continued...

The key, according to Somer, is to choose a low fat yogurt with live cultures -- like Lactobacillus acidophilus. And do check the label, Somer advises. Some store brands may not have the level of cultures found in more established brands.

Also important: Skip the fruit-on-the-bottom or other flavored varieties. “Too much sugar,” says Somer, who also reminds us that, no, those two blueberries on the bottom of the container do not constitute a serving of fruit!

Super Food # 2: Fatty fish-- like salmon, sardines, and mackerel

Goal: 2 to 3 servings every week

What it does: The healthy factor in fish is omega-3 fatty acids, and specifically two types known as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).

“Fatty fish not only plays a vital role in the health of the membrane of every cell in our body, it also helps protect us from a number of key health threats,” says Laurie Tansman, MS, RD, CDN, a nutritionist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

Some of those threats include heart disease, stroke, hypertension, depression, joint pain, and a number of illnesses linked to inflammation, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Somer says fish may even offer some protection against Alzheimer’s disease.

While many foods -- such as walnuts, flaxseed oil, and some mayonnaise brands -- claim the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, Somer cautions that only the DHA or EPA forms of omega-3 can be directly used by the body.

“What you get in foods like walnuts and flaxseed oil is an omega-3 acid known as ALA -- alpha-linoleic acid,” says Somer. “And while it’s certainly good for you, it requires a process in the body to convert it to DHA. And that conversion process can be influenced by a variety of individual factors.”

The good news: You are likely to see a wheelbarrow full of new products supplemented with DHA slowly making their way to market in the coming year. Currently, Kellogg is reportedly developing a cereal fortified with DHA, while a company called Nutri-Kids has already launched a DHA fortified ready-to-drink milk product. You can also find eggs fortified with DHA and, says Somer, certain brands of soymilk.

Super Food # 3: Beans

Goal: 3 to 4 servings every week

What it does: Low in fat, beans are a good source of protein and fiber and may have protective effects against heart disease and breast cancer. Beans may also play a role in stabilizing female hormones, says nutritionist Susan Krause, MS, RD.

“Beans have been around so long that most people don’t view them as a fancy new health food,” Krause says. “But in fact, they are among one of the healthiest things a woman can eat.”

In studies published in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers found that beans in general, and lentils in particular, may have some protective effects against breast cancer. In research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, doctors found a relationship between a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and a higher intake of legumes. Well known legumes include peas, beans, lentils, and peanuts.

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