The 5 best foods for women
What you eat can help prevent diseases such as breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. Here are the five best foods for women
Alzheimer’s is perhaps the one disease that strikes even more fear in our hearts than cancer does. One in three people over the age of 80 will be its victim, and most of us sit back and hope we won’t be one of them. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, twice as many women get Alzheimer’s disease than men. To protect against Alzheimer’s, eat a diet that is rich in flavonoids and antioxidants. Flavonoid-rich fruits include apples, blueberries, cranberries, and grapefruit. One study found that people who drank fruit and vegetable juices such as orange, apple, or tomato three times a week were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Other studies show that the more flavonoids a person eats, the lower the likelihood of developing dementia.
The reproductive system is awfully sensitive. In women, shifts in hormones, an abnormality in the reproductive organs, infection, disease, and even stress can lead to infertility. To boost your fertility, try foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts. The body uses omega-3 fatty acids to produce hormones called eicosanoids, which increase blood flow to the uterus, thus boosting the chances of pregnancy and facilitating fetal development. Omega-3s can also lower the risk of premature birth and low birth weight. Aim for 1,000 mg a day-which can be found in 1/4 cup of walnuts.
Our bones are living tissue, constantly breaking down and rebuilding. Over time, bones may become excessively fragile, resulting in fractures related to osteoporosis. Women’s risk of osteoporosis is four times higher than men’s, in part because they have less bone mass to begin with. Diet won’t rev up bone replacement, but along with regular exercise, it can help us hold on to the precious bone we have.
For stronger bones, eat more foods that are rich in vitamin D, such as salmon. Without vitamin D, our bodies absorb only 10 to 15 percent of the calcium we take in. When calcium levels drop, vitamin D activates to help our bodies absorb more calcium and reduce the amount we excrete. Many people don’t get enough D, especially if they spend less than 10 or 15 minutes a day in the sun without sunscreen. (Sunlight triggers D production in our skin.) But one serving of salmon is all you need for a daily dose.
Ask a baker about yeast, and you’ll hear stories of the miracles it creates in the oven-airy pastries and crusty breads that can make you swoon. But ask a woman who has had a yeast infection, and you’ll hear a very different tale. Having too much of a certain type of yeast in your body can make you miserable, leaving you itching and irritated in the most intimate places. Yeast infections can be stubborn, recurring even after successful treatment with medicines and antifungal creams. For that reason, prevention is the best option, and you can start with that yogurt in the refrigerator. You may also want to eat more garlic-a powerful bacteria fighter that also fights fungi. When scientists in Iran added extracts of pure garlic and onion to samples of C. albicans, the fungus that causes most yeast infections, the garlic and onion kept it from growing. Aim for two cloves per day. Garlic is most effective when eaten raw, so chop some and add it to salads, salsa, and pasta dishes, or simply chew the cloves if you can bear it.
Although women are actually more likely to develop heart disease, it’s breast cancer that strikes fear in their hearts. After lung cancer, it’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, yet for most women, preventing it is a big mystery. Even if the breast cancer odds aren’t in your favor, you can give yourself an edge. Monthly breast self-exams and annual mammograms are key, of course, to finding lumps that could be tumors. And the right diet can help prevent them.
If you’re going to eat more of just one vegetable, make it broccoli. Lab studies have found that a cancer-fighting compound in broccoli called sulforaphane stops breast cancer cells in their tracks and encourages them to self-destruct. Plus, another compound in broccoli, called indole-3-carbinol, appears to inhibit estrogen’s power to promote the growth of breast cancer cells. Aim for four 1/2-cup (125-millilitre) servings a week of broccoli and other cruciferous veggies, including cabbage, watercress, bok choy, turnip greens, mustard greens, and collard greens.
More food cures for women
To learn more about foods that can help women achieve optimal health, check out Food Cures, available now in the Best Health Store.
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