With so many fruit and veg claiming superfood status at the moment, it's tough deciding what to put in your basket. Not to worry, we're here to put an end to what ifs and maybes with a definitive list of what you lovely ladies need in your kitchen, starting with these 10.
First up, lentils. These little legumes are an amazing source of fibre, protein and importantly for women, iron. Female athletes, pregnant women and girls in their teens are more susceptible to becoming anaemic; but even if you don't fall into one of those three categories, it's important that you naturally up your vitamin intake through iron-rich foods. What's more, research has proven that lentils and the like can also protect against cancer, lower cholesterol and help regulate hormones - alleviating symptoms of PMS and the menopause. If lentils aren't your cup of tea, try black beans or chickpeas as an alternative.
Ladies if you love tomatoes, you're in luck - they hold secret healing powers. Rich in the powerful antioxidant, lycopene (the reason behind their red pigment), tomatoes help fight free radicals and protect against cell damage. A natural SPF, they help keep the skin well equipped for those sun's pesky rays (alongside sun block of course).
Adding to that, there's research to suggest that tomatoes can also protect against the effects of breast cancer, says Rutgers University. In a study of 70 postmenopausal women who followed a tomato-rich diet plan, they found that after 10 weeks the participants showed a 9 per ceng increase in levels of adiponectin (a fat/blood sugar regulating hormone), which helps lower their risk of breast cancer.
It was Popeye's go-to snack for good reason - this leafy green is an amazing source of iron, both helping to improve the quality of the blood and restore energy. It's also high in folic acid, making it the ultimate pregnancy superfood. If you're popping tins of spinach, cook it rather than eat it raw. You get the same amount micronutrients in each serving, but when heated, the vitamin content of spinach is better absorbed into your system, providing higher levels of vitamins A and E, protein, calcium, and important carotenoids like beta-carotene and lutein. Step aside broccoli, we've a new favourite green.
It's been sitting on your dinner plate for years, but little did you know what magic it was working on your body... Cauliflower is high in a whole host of vitamins: A, C, K; it's a rich source of calcium, helps reduce cancer risks, and promotes weight loss too - providing a flavoursome crunchy snack to fill-up on at only 25 calories a cup! It's also emerged as a culinary God send amongst gluten intolerant foodies, who crave a Friday night pizza without the terrible bloating and stomach ache alongside. If you're steering clear of carbs, a cauliflower pizza base is a tasty, nutritious option that's super easy to rustle up.
A staple in any woman's fridge is cranberry juice. Not just for the vitamin and minerals it provides - (it's an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese!) but for its medicinal properties too. Unfortunately ladies, biology dictates that we are more susceptible to Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and that up to half of all women will experience a UTI during their lifetime. Thanks to its proanthocyanidin content - a 'unique molecular structure' that exhibits 'potent bacterial anti-adhesion activity,' says The State University of New Jersey; cranberry juice offers the perfect treatment to help keep UTI's at bay.
If you're craving something sweet but are trying to be good, shop for Greek yoghurt. Topped with sweet blueberries and a drizzle of honey, it's a delicious treat that brings an array of health benefits. Compared to normal yoghurt it offers double the protein and far less sugar; providing the perfect post-workout snack to promote recovery, build muscle and maximise gains.
25 per cent of women over 40 don’t consume enough protein in their diet, despite the increasing need for it. As we get older, our metabolism naturally starts to slow down, which strength training and a protein-rich diet can help prevent. Protein also aids weight loss by keeping you fuller for longer, and therefore less likely to graze on junk food.
Salmon is a superfood favourite. Along with avocados and kale, it's up there as one of the greats. 2-3 servings of oily fish/good fats a week helps keep the heart healthy, which is especially important as you start to get older and your estrogen levels start to drop. It also improves cognitive health, protects vision and promotes glowing skin. If you're pregnant, salmon is a must-eat, as it provides all these lovely body-boosting benefits for the developing foetus. Eating more omega-3 rich foods during the last weeks of your pregnancy is also said to help beat postpartum blues, so stock up.
If you're always snacking on the wrong foods, add popcorn to your shopping list. Switching from packet after packet of trans fatty crisps to light and antioxidant-rich air-popped popcorn gives you far more calories for your buck, with health benefits to boot. At only 30 calories a cup, air popped popcorn curbs cravings and allows you to snack guilt-free - but remember, skip the lashings of butter. Alternatively, dark chocolate is a popular treat for #healthies in the making, but ensure that the quality's up to scratch/the cocoa content is high and eat in moderation, 1-2 squares max.
Step away from the coffee. If you're in need of a morning pick-me-up, get your caffeine kick from white tea. Sure, green and black have their benefits. But white tea is the least processed of the three and contains the highest amount of antioxidants. Unlike a calorific caramel latte, white tea gives you an energy boost, whilst also helping to lower cholesterol, blood pressure and your risk of getting cancer. According to Oregon State University researchers, it's the increased levels of polyphenols contained in white tea that enhances its 'cancer fighting potential.' Making the health swap from sugar-filled coffee to herbal teas also promotes stronger bones/teeth and gorgeous skin - well worth a sip!
Since a study made in the late 90s' by researchers at Tufts University, blueberries have been hailed as one of the greatest youth-boosting foods around. Not only do they promote a youthful, fine line-free complexion, but they also help ward off age-related diseases, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Tufts University concluded that the antioxidant kick blueberries provide, even has the potential to 'improve motor skills and reverse short-term memory loss,' delaying age-decline even further. Team these health-enhancing elixirs of life with Greek yoghurt, and enjoy!