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Nutrition Smarts

Top 10 Foods for Women

Do women really need to eat any differently than men—we're all humans, right? True, but a woman's nutritional needs are more specific than a man's. Pam Peeke MD, MPH author of "Fight Fat After Forty" (Viking 2000) and Assistant Professor of Medicine at University of Maryland School of Medicine explains why. "Women are special. They have unique nutritional requirements to keep them energized and focused, especially as they age. And, that means over the age of 30 years! Here's a great list of foods that every woman needs to incorporate into her weekly diet to guarantee that as each year goes by, she stays as healthy and fit as she can."

So, just because you work like a man and play even harder, your diet should be a bit more ladylike. We've paired some of our most nutrient and flavor-packed recipes with each food to help you get everything you need to fuel that beautiful, wonderful, womanly body. *

Soy protein is found in products like tofu and soymilk to soy nut butter and cereal. Soy protein is heart healthy (helps lower "bad" cholesterol levels) and is rich in phytonutrients. Aim for up to 25 grams of soy protein per day.

Japanese Ginger Salad with Edamame and Pecans
Bill Wavrin, Rancho la Puerta, Baja, Mexico
Asian Tofu Sandwich with Grilled Vegetables
Bill Wavrin, Rancho la Puerta, Baja, Mexico

Whole grains are high in fiber and therefore help stave off digestive problems that are so common in women. Try to incorporate more whole grains like brown rice, bran flakes, whole grain breads, barley and quinoa into your diet.

Brown Rice and Crunchy Vegetable Salad
Basic Bran Muffins
Aztecan Quinoa Salad
Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, Border Grill, Santa Monica, CA

Foods rich in folate like asparagus, oranges, fortified cereals and beans. Folate is important during pregnancy for ensuring proper neural tube development of the fetus and has been shown to be important for heart health. Make sure to get the RDA of 400 micrograms (mcg) per day.

Risotto with Fresh Asparagus
Allen Susser's Orange and Mango Salsa
Allen Susser, Chef Allen's, Aventura, FL
Black Bean Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Cranberries and cranberry juice. The proanthocyanidins found in cranberries help prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder, thus warding off urinary tract infections (UTIs). New research also suggests that cranberries may promote cardiovascular health.

Cran-Raspberry Fizz
Wild Rice with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts

Water. Though it's not a food, water is important for all metabolic processes in the body. It also helps with digestion, weight loss and improves the appearance of the skin. Drinking 8 to 10, eight-ounce glasses of water each day is key, but eating foods with a high water content (like fruits and certain vegetables) will also contribute to your water intake.

Mexican Fresh Fruit Smoothie
Bill Wavrin, Rancho la Puerta, Baja, Mexico
Watercress and Pomegranate Salad

Nuts are full of monounsaturated fats, which can help lower cholesterol levels, and polyunsaturated fats, which can help prevent heart disease. Plus, nuts are a good source of protein, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, selenium, folate, vitamin E and vitamin A. Nuts pack a lot of calories into their tiny packages, so try to limit your serving to an ounce a day. That's 28 peanuts, 14 walnut halves and only 7 Brazil nuts.

Fall Salad with Asian Pears, Walnuts and Sherry Vinaigrette
Couscous Salad with Almonds, Raisins, Orange Zest and Saffroned Onions
Joyce Goldstein

Green leafy vegetables. Everything from kale to bok choy to darker lettuces. These vegetables provide important nutrients as well as fiber (aim for 20 to 35 grams each day) to the diet. Try to get at least three servings of vegetables each day.

Garlicky Kale
Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Café Cookbook
Shrimp Stir-Fry with Chinese Cabbage, Carrots and Broccoli

Fruits rich in vitamin C. These include citrus fruits, strawberries, green and red peppers, collard and mustard greens, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, potatoes, kiwi, guava and parsley. In addition to contributing to overall health, fruits rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant, have recently been linked to a decreased risk of coronary heart disease. Fit two to three servings (or more) of fruit into your daily diet. The RDA for vitamin C for women is 75 milligrams a day.

Strawberry Smoothie
Grilled Chicken with Oranges and Avocados

Iron rich foods. Due to their monthly cycles, premenopausal women need more iron. Good sources of iron are garbanzo beans, lean beef, Swiss chard, tofu and dried apricots. Women need 12 to 15 milligrams of iron each day, compared to just 10 to 12 milligrams for men.

Pan-Seared Sirloin Steaks with Yukon Gold Potatoes
Spinach with Chickpeas
Joyce Goldstein, Kitchen Conversations

Calcium rich foods. Calcium helps keep bones strong and along with regular weight bearing exercise, helps to stave off osteoporosis. Good choices are low fat dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables (kale, broccoli, collard greens), calcium fortified soy products and tofu, calcium fortified juices and calcium fortified grains. Check this list to see how much calcium you need each day:

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)
4 to 8 years : 800 milligrams
9 to 13 years : 1300 milligrams
14 to 18 years : 1300 milligrams
19 to 50 years : 1000 milligrams
51 to 70+ years : 1200 milligrams

Georgia Peach Cooler
Bill Wavrin, Rancho la Puerta, Baja, Mexico
Lemon-Dill Cucumber Dip
Bitter Greens
Elizabeth Terry, Elizabeth on 37th, Savannah, GA

* If you're pregnant or breastfeeding please consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet, as you may require different amounts of some of the nutrients listed.

— Frances Largeman, RD


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