No matter your gender, eating healthy is always important, but for women, eating more of certain foods might have powerful health benefits. These eight nutritious foods pack an extra punch for women’s health.
1. Dark Chocolate
Good news, chocolate-lovers: Women who eat dark chocolate regularly have a lower risk of stroke, according to a 2011 Swedish study.
“Cocoa contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and can suppress oxidation of low-density lipoprotein [‘bad’ cholesterol] which can cause cardiovascular disease [including stroke],” Susanna Larsson, an associate professor of Nutritional Epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and the study’s author, said.
Dark chocolate also helps brain function, improves your mood, and some research has even found that, in moderation, dark chocolate can help you slim down.
Next time you feel bloated, try eating some asparagus — it’s an anti-bloating superfood. Asparagus is a natural diuretic, so it flushes excess water, relieving bloat and discomfort. Asparagus is also a great source of probiotics, which help maintain a healthy balance in your gut.
Eating a few walnuts a day could lower cholesterol, boost brain power, help you sleep better and maybe even prevent breast cancer.
Walnuts are full of an antioxidant called phytosterols, which have known cancer-fighting properties as well as nutritious omega-3 fats. Just keep your portions small since walnuts are calorie dense.
Blueberries are a sweet superfood women should consider adding to their diet. Due to their high amount of antioxidants, blueberries can combat aging and reverse damage done by toxins and free radicals.
These delicious berries can also boost brain power because they contain high amounts of phenols, specifically gallic acid. Not to mention that the nutrients in blueberries can fight cancer, support digestion, benefit skin and promote heart health.
5. Green Tea
Drinking green tea could do wonders for your health. Green tea is loaded with powerful polyphenols that protect cells and molecules from damaging free radicals. This flavorful, hot drink can also improve brain function — in addition to brain-boosting caffeine found in green tea, it has amino acid L-theanine, which acts as an anti-anxiety compound.
If that’s not enough reason to start drinking green tea, it can also help you shed some pounds. Studies have shown that green tea increases fat burning and boosts the metabolic rate.
You may have been told that carbs are the enemy, but if you’re eating oats and whole grains, carbs can actually be quite healthy. Oats are high in a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which can reduce cholesterol levels, lower blood sugar and increase the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract.
Oats are also rich in magnesium, which helps keep the body energized, can prevent heart attacks and regulate blood pressure. Eating a delicious bowl of nutritious oatmeal in the morning will help start your day right and keep you full until lunchtime. Just make sure not to eat the sugar-filled instant oatmeals. Opt for a sprinkle of brown sugar to add some sweetness.
You may have turned your nose up at broccoli as a child, but if you haven’t come around to this green vegetable, it may be time to reconsider your attitude. Studies have shown that eating a lot of vegetables in the cruciferous group — which broccoli belongs in — can lower the risk of cancer, specifically colon and lung cancer.
Broccoli contains sulforaphane, a compound that can inhibit the growth of enzyme histone deacetylase (HDAC), which is involved in the progression of cancer cells. But broccoli’s cancer-fighting properties don’t end there; broccoli contains folate, a powerful compound that’s been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer in women.
8. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt offers more protein than most yogurts and has much less sugar. Studies have shown that eating more protein helps women lose weight, maintain muscles and promotes healthier aging.
This tangy yogurt is also packed with calcium, helping your bones stay strong. However, you should probably try to avoid Greek yogurt that comes with fruit jams because they are most likely full of sugar. Instead, go for a plain Greek yogurt and add blueberries or other fresh fruit of your choice.
Related: 7 Foods to Boost Your Sex Drive
Danielle Tarasiuk is a multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles. Her work has been published on AllDay.com, Yahoo! Sports, KCET, and NPR-affiliate stations KPCC and KCRW. She’s a proud Sarah Lawrence College and USC Annenberg alumn.