Whole foods not only supply energy, but many are a source of natural compounds that help to reduce the risk of disease. The key is to make your choices wisely by selecting less processed foods and more fruits and vegetables. There are certain foods that have rightfully earned the status of “superfoods” because of their role in protecting against diseases that are common in females. Here are some you’ll want to add to your grocery cart.
Broccoli is a shining example of a superfood for women, yet it’s a polarizing vegetable when it comes to taste. It ranks in the top three in lists of people’s favorite vegetables, but there are still lots of people who would rather go hungry than bite into a broccoli spear. They’re missing out.
Broccoli is a source of natural compounds called glucosinolates that are converted to cancer-fighting chemicals called sulforaphanes. These powerful chemicals may help to keep some forms of cancer such as lung, liver, colon and cancer of the esophagus at bay. In addition, broccoli contains indoles that convert estrogens to a less potent form. These less potent estrogens may help women reduce their risk of breast cancer and other hormone-dependent cancers.
If you don’t like broccoli, look for Broccosprouts at your supermarket. These sprouts contain even higher levels of cancer-fighting chemicals than broccoli itself. Sprinkle them on salads, on sandwiches and into soups for added cancer protection. They also supply an enzyme called myosinase that’s broken down by heat. When you cook broccoli it loses some of its cancer protective benefits because of the breakdown of myrosinase. Broccoli sprouts supply this enzyme.
Flaxseed is another superfood that may lower the risk of breast cancer in women. Ground flaxseeds contain lignans. Lignans bind to receptors on breast cells and block them so estrogen can’t attach so easily. This may lower the risk of estrogen-dependent breast cancers.
More good news. Some research shows that eating 3 tablespoons of flaxseed a day reduces hot flashes in women going through menopause, although a more recent study calls this into question. Still, flaxseed is abundant in fiber and protein, and it adds a nutty flavor to cereals and yogurt.
To get the benefits of flaxseed, grind them in a coffee grinder into a powder. Unground flaxseed pass through your digestive tract without being broken down, reducing the benefits.
All red and purple berries have health benefits, but blueberries shine when it comes to brain health. They contain pigmented compounds called anthocyanins that give them their deep purple hue. These compounds are not only pretty to look at – they also have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows they may be particularly effective for protecting brain cells against degeneration and damage. What woman doesn’t want a healthy brain and sharp memory? Blueberries can help with that. Add them to your salads, breakfast cereal, yogurt and smoothies, and munch on them with a little whipped cream in place of a not-so-healthy dessert.
Yogurt contains bone-preserving calcium. Not only does the calcium in yogurt help to protect against bone loss, it may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Yogurt is also a source of probiotics, good bacteria that live in the intestines and help prime the immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses. Preliminary studies suggest they may help ward off intestinal viruses, colds and yeast and urinary tract infections, common problems in young women.
To get the full benefits from yogurt, choose a plain yogurt that has live cultures. This will ensure you’re getting a healthy dose of probiotics. Plain yogurt is better than flavored varieties since many flavored versions contain too much sugar. Sweeten it with fresh berries instead. For additional nutritional points, choose plain Greek yogurt. It’s higher in protein, lower in carbs and easier to digest.
If you’ve ever eaten in a Japanese restaurant, you’ve probably had miso soup. Miso is a good source of phytoestrogens, compounds that have weak estrogen-like properties. According to a study carried out in Japan, Japanese women who ate miso soup several times a day had a lower risk of breast cancer than those who rarely ate it. The weak estrogen-like compounds in miso may block the effects of natural estrogens on breast tissue, thereby lowering the risk of breast cancer.
Miso is a fermented form of soy, which has natural probiotics like yogurt. Like chicken noodle soup, miso soup is also a soothing, comfort food to enjoy on a dreary, cold winter’s breast cancer. Miso is a fermented form of soy, which has natural probiotics like yogurt. With miso, you get the benefits of both phytoestrogens and probiotics in one tasty soup.
The Bottom Line?
Enjoy these superfoods for women. Whether you’re 20 or 80, they contain natural compounds that can help keep you healthy.
Linus Pauling Institute. “Isothyocyanates”
J Soc Integr Oncol. 2007 Summer;5(3):106-12.
Nutrition and Cancer, 43(2), 187-192.
British Journal of Nutrition (2002), 88, Suppl. 1, S59-S66.
Miso Protects Against Breast Cancer; Glycemic Load Doesn’t Affect CRC Risk
Tags: breast cancer, breast cancers, breast cells, broccoli, broccosprouts, cancer in women, cancer of the esophagus, cancer protection, estrogen, flaxseed, fruits and vegetables, glucosinolates, indoles, sprouts, superfood, superfoods, whole foods