The challenge of living well and taking advantage of food’s benefits is at the forefront of the nation’s efforts. It’s safe to say, most women strive to live a healthy lifestyle. But what is actually worth buying? What foods are going to give us the biggest health bang for our buck?
With this in mind, sofeminine got chatting to leading Consultant Nutritionist at Emma Nutrition, Emma Wight-Boycott, to help us suss out the top 10 superfoods and their mega benefits.
Girls, it's time we cleared out the store cupboards and stocked up the fridge. Check out the superfoods you need to make friends with...
Did you know a red pepper has twice as much vitamin C as an orange? Neither did we! These heroes help to clear your body free of radicals and keep your skin and blood vessels strong - all while preventing chronic diseases such as arthritis and eye diseases.
And for the perfect peppers Emma says: “The brighter their colour the more vitamin C they contain. Add them to 3 meals per week to increase vitamin c and fibre."
Weekly goal: Aim for around 110mg, nearly three times your daily recommended intake of vitamin C (40mg).
Walnuts are warriors for our heart’s health - we love these crunchy little warriors! These tree nuts are found to significantly improve one’s cholesterol levels and help strengthen blood vessels too.
Walnuts are also loaded with omega 3s so you definitely need these in your diet. Emma says: “These nuts are the ultimate brain food. They are made up of a whopping 65% fatty acids that are essential for the brain, skin and nervous system.”
These are deff our fave nuts for heart-healthy antioxidants!
Weekly goal: Eat a small handful every day.
Ladies, you’re going to thank us for this one.
Dark chocolate is high in flavonoids which reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, asthma and strokes. Dark chocolate is a great source of antioxidants, which are super health boosters for optimal heart health.
Emma says: “Opting for chocolate that is 80% or more cocoa will ensure you get the positive benefits of chocolate."
And chocolate isn’t just there to promote your heart health - it can improve your love life also...
“Cocoa has been shown to be an antidepressant and contains a mood elevator that is similar in chemical structure to a hormone secreted by women when sexually aroused.”
Weekly goal: Eat as a treat!
This amazing healing superfood works to enhance women’s immune systems - for such a tiny thing, garlic packs a huge punch of health benefits. Garlic is not only known for its antifungal and antiviral properties, but research has shown that women who eat garlic have a lower risk of colon cancer too.
Emma says: “Garlic is the ultimate superfood! Garlic has long been used for high blood pressure, worms and other parasites. It is thought to have immune enhancing properties too. The mineral sulphur promotes the elimination of toxins from the blood and body.
"Its has also been shown to help lower fat levels in the blood and platelet aggregation (blood stickiness); this can lower blood clotting potential."
To get the most out of its health benefits eat a clove raw and just after it’s peeled as it will lose potency when exposed to light.
Weekly goal: Eat a clove every day.
The power of probiotics in promoting good health might be hard to swallow at first. Who would have thought that eating live bacteria would be ‘healthy’? As odd as it may sound, this 'good bacteria' is actually somewhat of a lifesaver.
Since up to 80% of our immune systems are located in our gut, it’s no surprise that keeping our gastrointestinal tracts in tip top condition is important for women’s overall health
“Probiotics are really the basis for good health; it has been said that good health starts with digestion and probiotics are the best ingredient you can eat for the digestion.
"Full fat natural yogurt contains probiotics and enzymes that can replace harmful bacteria in the colon or vaginal tract of women. Acidophilus is often used to treat yeast infections or to recolonise the gut after a course of antibiotics. This can prevent synthesis of pathogenic colonic bacteria which can in turn prevent colon disease and IBS.”
Weekly goal: Look for probiotics in yogurt, kimchi, dark chocolate, pickles, soft cheeses, sourdough bread, honey, bananas and tomatoes (the list goes on!). Aim to incorporate these products into your daily diet.
Orange flesh sweet potatoes are nutritional powerhouses and no doubt, one of the healthiest superfoods for women. With energy boosting carbs, fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and potassium you just can’t go wrong.
Sweet potato is very high in beta carotene, with a medium-sized potato providing 13120 mcg (more than enough to meet your daily needs).
Emma says: "Beta carotene is the precursor to vitamin A which protects tissues during infections and promotes rapid recovery from surgery or illness. Vitamin needs are increased with illness, infection, trauma, anxiety or stress, pregnancy, lactation, and alcohol use or smoking.”
So when the going gets tough, scrummy sweet potatoes are your ultimate go-to.
Weekly goal: Try to eat sweet potatoes at least 2-3 times a week at least.
This winter superfood is a must-have in every household fridge. These leafy greens will help nourish eyes, strengthen bones and aid digestion.
Emma says: “This leafy green vegetable is rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Spinach is loaded with lutein, which keeps your eyes healthy and sparkling.
“Spinach is also a good source of vitamins B, C, and E, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and omega 3 fatty acids. Trade your lettuce for spinach, or sauté spinach for a quick, healthy side.”
Something to note - cooking spinach makes it even more nutrient-rich, giving you 3 times as many nutrients as eating it raw!
Weekly goal: Include it in your diet at least three times a week!
It’s no wonder things have gone a bit kale crazy in recent years. This nutritiously dense leafy green is a fantastic source of vitamins and minerals that have beneficial effects on your health. Kale comes from the cabbage family so it’s an easy veg to replace with your standard household lettuce (which is nowhere near as nutritious as this buzz food). Try it in smoothies, replace your usual sides with it, or make it your new favourite 'crisps'!
Emma says kale contains a good source of “phytochemicals - substances associated with the prevention of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. It’s a great source of minerals, especially calcium."
Weekly goal: There’s 150mg of calcium per 100g of cooked kale, which is about a fifth of your daily needs. Add it to salads or Asian-style soups.
Avocado AKA ‘Alligator Pear’ is sometimes scrutinised for its levels of fat. But what weight-conscious women don’t realise is that this superfood is high in natural fats that do way more good than bad.
Packed with disease-fighting antioxidants, this fruit contributes to the prevention of heart disease, cancer and even Alzheimer’s. This delicious (and arguably perfect) fruit is wonderful in a salad or stuffed with tuna.
Emma says: “Avocado includes potassium, B vitamins and folic acid. It also acts as a so-called nutrient booster; when eaten with other foods.
“Avocados enable the body to better absorb cancer-fighting nutrients, such as carotenoids, found in vegetables that include spinach and carrots and are essential for plump healthy skin.”
Weekly goal: Aim to eat 3 avocados per week.
These tiny ancient peas are one of man’s earliest cultivated legumes and for good reason.
Their superpowers for women exceed any girl’s expectations - the high level of oestrogen in chickpeas helps regulate a woman’s own production of the hormone, helping to reduce the risk of breast cancer, osteoporosis and minimise post-menopausal effects on women.
Emma says: "Chickpeas are low in calories, low in fat, high in fibre and are a good source of protein. These are powerhouse foods that couldn't be manufactured as perfectly if you tried to make the most perfect food!
"Although they aren't complete proteins, if you combine them with brown rice you make a complete protein source. They have good levels of all B vitamins which increase energy levels, fibre which can increase metabolism and minerals - great for hair, skin and nails."
Weekly goal: Eat chickpeas in curries, salads or as hummus - you just can’t have enough!
Got a recipe tip for any of these superfoods? Tweet it to us @sofeminine