You may have heard the term superfoods before. This list of superfoods is curated to provide the nutrients that many midlife women lack. Don’t feel limited by this list, but use it to inspire you.
What are superfoods?
There is no one food that will help you to lose weight, reduce menopause symptoms and keep you healthy in your old age. However there are foods that are better choices than others. These are foods that are high in nutrients and have many benefits for women in midlife. It doesn’t mean you can’t eat other foods, but think about these foods when you are planning your meals, doing your shopping or reaching for a snack.
We can’t do without water, but many women don’t drink enough. We replace it with other beverages that are full of sugar like sweetened carbonated beverages or fruit juice. Water helps to keep our joints lubricated, improves skin appearance and helps with weight loss if you replace other beverages with it.
Green tea contains polyphenols that can help to reduce inflammation and lower the risks of cancer. It has some caffeine so it can help if you are trying to reduce your coffee intake. It also has substances that can improve brain health.
The benefit of the herbal tea depends on the type of tea. They can be relaxing, help with digestion or improve blood pressure. Read this article for more information on the benefits of tea. If you don’t drink enough water, unsweetened herbal teas are a way to drink more.
You may be surprised to find coffee on the list. Coffee can be a part of a healthy diet. It has been shown to reduce the risk of developing dementia, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. There are some health risks with it, so you can probably get the benefits from other foods if you don’t drink coffee, but if you do then don’t feel like you need to give it up.
Just about every vegetable can be considered a superfood. I picked ones that have the most benefits. If you like other vegetables not included, then include these as well.
Broccoli is high in vitamin K, vitamin C, fibre, potassium, calcium and folate. Vitamin C and K and calcium benefit bone health. Vitamin C also helps with immunity. Fibre helps to keep you full, keeps blood sugar balanced and helps with digestion. Potassium helps with fluid regulation and helps keep your heart healthy.
Cauliflower is similar to broccoli in nutritional content, but contains fewer vitamins and less fibre. However cauliflower because of its mild taste, and creamy whiteness it has become a staple of the low carb world being used in everything from pizza crust to a rice substitute.
Kale is a nutrient dense vegetable. It contains vitamins A, K, C, calcium, magnesium and potassium. It also contains antioxidants. Kale helps to lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, reduce the risk of cancer, and may help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Broccoli, kale and cauliflower are cruciferous vegetables and may cause digestive issues for some people. So add these slowly to your diet to make sure they are right for you.
Spinach is high in vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium and magnesium. It is also high in Iron and calcium, but the calcium is not well absorbed because spinach also contains oxalates which make the calcium difficult to use. Spinach helps keep your heart and bones healthy and aids in digestion because of its high fibre content.
Bell peppers are high in vitamin C, vitamin A (especially red peppers), iron , and several antioxidants. They help with eye health, preventing anemia (because of the iron and vitamin C combination), and reducing the risk of several chronic diseases.
Lettuce may have lower levels of nutrients than the vegetables listed above, but it is still a healthy food. Lettuce contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, B vitamins and vitamin K. The benefits will depend on the type of lettuce used, but lettuce can help to lower cholesterol levels, improve eye health and lower the risk of some types of cancer.
Fruits are often left out of lists of healthy foods because of the high sugar content, but fruits are healthy foods. Here are some that should make your list. Make sure that you eat whole fruit, not juice. Whole fruit has fibre so will not cause blood sugar imbalances the same way that fruit juice does.
Berries are high in phytochemical that help protect cells from damage. They prevent mental decline, help to manage diabetes, and they are good for your heart.
You probably know that oranges are high in vitamin C. Oranges are also a good source of fibre and B vitamins. They help with immunity, and keeping the heart healthy. Just make sure you choose whole oranges instead of fruit juice.
You may have heard the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. The reason for this saying is that apples are nutritious. They are high in fibre, vitamin C, potassium and vitamin K. They help with digestion because they are a prebiotic (a food that helps probiotics in your gut). They may also help maintain bone density and reduce the risk of cancer.
Salmon is one of the richest sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential because your body doesn’t create them. Some benefits of omega 3 fatty acids include lower inflammation, lower blood pressure, and lowering the risk of some forms of cancer. It may also help to improve brain function. Salmon is also a good source of protein which is important for maintaining bones and muscles.
Chicken breast is one of the easiest to use forms of animal protein. It can be added to salads, soups, curries and casseroles. It makes the list because of its impressive protein content and ease of use.
Lean red meat
Red meat is high in saturated fat, but it is also high in iron and protein, two nutrients that may be lacking in the diets of midlife women. But two caveats here – limit processed meats like lunch meats, bacon and sausages and try to stick to lean cuts. Red meat is not something you should eat every day, but it can definitely be part of a healthy diet.
Eggs are rich in nutrients – protein, vitamin A, and B vitamins. It was once believed that you needed to stick to egg whites, because of the high cholesterol content of the yolk. We now know that eggs do not raise cholesterol for most people.
Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein and calcium. It also may contain probiotics which may improve gut health.
If you prefer to stick to plant based protein or want to supplement your protein intake with plant bases alternatives then legumes are an excellent option.
Black beans are high in protein, fibre, iron and magnesium. They also help to keep blood sugar balanced, and they may reduce hot flashes, improve bone health, lower blood sugar and improve sleep.
Chick peas or garbanzo beans are high in protein, iron and fibre. They help to keep blood sugar levels balanced and lower cholesterol.
Lentils are high in fibre, protein and folate. They can help to reduce blood sugar, and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. They also help to improve gut health. Choose red, green, French or black lentils to fit the meal you are making.
There are several other legumes that have similar benefits to these. Check out this blog post on why you should eat beans.
Nuts and seeds
Walnuts contain healthy fats and protein. They contain a high amount of omega 3 fatty acids which means they are good for your heart and for your brain. They also may help to reduce inflammation and may help reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
Almonds are high in protein, magnesium and healthy fats. They may help to keep blood sugar balanced, reduce inflammation and may help to lower blood pressure. They are also high in fibre. The combination of fat, protein and fibre means that almonds will help keep you full longer.
Pumpkin seeds are full of nutrients. They contain protein, fibre, omega 6 fatty acids, magnesium and several other vitamins and minerals. One study found that pumpkin seeds reduced the risk of breast cancer for post menopausal women. Their high magnesium content means that they help to control blood pressure and keep bones healthy. And magnesium has been linked to fewer and less severe hot flashes. The protein content is also impressive. A 1 oz serving contains similar calories to an egg and a similar amount of protein.
Hemp seeds contain high amounts of protein, magnesium, potassium and omega 3 fatty acids. They may help to improve brain health, improve heart health, and lower inflammation.
Hemp seeds come from a different species of cannabis plant than the marijuana plant and contain only trace amounts of THC, so they won’t make you high.
Chia seeds are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, phosphorus and fibre. The high fibre content may help with weight loss and improving gut health. The omega 3’s make them a heart healthy food.
Flax seeds are a good source of several different nutrients. They may help to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer and there is some evidence that they reduce hot flashes (although some studies do not show this benefit). They also help to keep your heart healthy.
Carbohydrates get lumped together, the good with the bad. But whole grains are good for you. These are my top two choices for whole grains. They are both gluten free and more easily tolerated
Quinoa is technically a pseudo grain because it is actually a seed that is eaten as a grain. Quinoa contains more protein than most grains and also contains all essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. It is also higher in fibre than most grains and contains a reasonable amount of magnesium and iron. It contains slow digesting carbohydrates so it is better for blood sugar control.
Oats are a good source of fibre, manganese, magnesium and iron. They are one of the only grains that contain soluble fibre which helps to keep the gut healthy, and reduces cholesterol levels. They also help to keep blood sugar levels controlled, and fill you up so you eat less.
How to use this list
Simply adding one of these foods that catches your eye is not enough to make a difference if your diet is poor. But add these foods slowly, especially if your diet is low in fibre to avoid digestive distress. Of course, if you are allergic or intolerant to any of these foods then avoid them. If you have digestive issues by careful adding any new foods to your diet.
Just because a food didn’t make this list, doesn’t mean it isn’t a healthy food. Include a variety of whole foods in your diet for best results. You can start adding these foods by downloading the superfoods checklist.