Health is wealth. We've all heard it before and, as someone who is oh so well in her 40s at this point, I most certainly believe it. When it comes to food specifically, I am well aware that my mother's clean diet while carrying me played a huge role in why I am so healthy now. I also know that when I eat right, I feel so much different than when I go through some drive-thru line.
We as women are some amazing creatures. At the same time, our bodies are so intricately designed that it's important that we provide our system with the kind of fuel that will keep us thriving for years to come. That's why I thought it would be a good idea to share 12 foods that can help specific parts of the female body. If you add these to your diet on a regular basis, I'm confident that you will feel so much better for it. Ready?
1. Immune System: Portabella Mushroom
I'm not a vegetarian or a vegan but there are times when I'll take a break from eating meat. One food that is a cool meat-textured substitute is the portabella mushroom. In fact, it contains about 20 percent of the protein that your body needs on a daily basis. As far as health benefits go, for starters, portabella mushrooms contain a good amount of selenium, potassium, vitamins B2 and B3 and copper. This is the kind of mushroom that has conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) in it which is cool because those help to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Not only that, but portabella mushrooms are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories which definitely makes them something that will help to keep your immune system in check in the absolute best way possible.
2. Brain and Heart Strength: Asparagus
A veggie that contains a good amount of vitamins A, B6 and B12, C, E, K, folate, iron, calcium, antioxidants and protein is asparagus. If you're looking for something that will help you to lose weight, because asparagus is low in fat and calories, it's a food that can help you to do just that. Because it contains the amino acid asparagine, this vegetable can help to prevent UTIs. The Vitamin E that it contains will fight off free radicals, and there are even studies to support the fact that asparagus can help your body to overcome a hangover (buck, right?). As far as your brain and heart go, since it's loaded with Vitamin B12 and folate, asparagus can keep your brain in great shape and the potassium in it helps to keep your heart strong.
3. Breast health: Citrus Fruit
Oranges. Grapefruit. Lemons. Limes. Tangerines. These are all considered to be citrus fruit which basically means that they are "sour fruits". Since they are high in Vitamin C and C is a great antioxidant, it's important to eat this fruit to keep cold and flu bugs from getting you sick. Citrus fruit is high in fiber to keep you regular, water to keep you hydrated, flavonoids to strengthen your heart and potassium to help prevent kidney stones and strokes. Also, since Vitamin C can increase collagen production, citrus fruit is great at reducing signs of aging too.
The reason why peeling an orange or slicing a grapefruit on a weekly basis is such a good idea is because citrus fruit has a phytochemical limonoid in it which has antitumor, antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory properties. Since breast cancer in Black women has a lower incidence but higher mortality rate, it's definitely something to eat more often.
4. Gut Health: Greek Yogurt
Ever wonder what the difference is between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt? At the end of the day, Greek yogurt is strained while regular yogurt isn't which means that Greek yogurt has more nutrients in it. It's the kind of food that is a wonderful source of protein and probiotics. It also has a good amount of Vitamin B12, potassium, calcium and iodine (which keeps your thyroid in good shape). If you're looking for a healthy snack that can replenish some of what you've lost after working out, Greek yogurt has totally got you in that way too. Plus, since it's a fermented food that is loaded with healthy bacteria cultures, it's also a food that can keep your gut in great health; that's a blessing because 80 percent of your immune system is located there.
5. Hormonal Balance: Quinoa
Quinoa is the kind of food that has grown on me over time. A part of what helped me to keep rocking with it was all of the health benefits that it contains. There is definitely no way around the fact that it is indeed a superfood. First, quinoa is one of the very few plants that is considered to be a complete protein (great news for vegetarians and vegans). It's also high in fiber, iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc. If you're someone who prefers foods that are gluten-free, quinoa totally has your back in that way too. Quinoa is good for your gut, helps to reduce bodily inflammation, and is even able to assist in lowering your cholesterol levels. And since it's a food that helps to keep androgen levels on point (including testosterone which women contain a certain amount of), it's also a really good nutrient to help keep your hormones balanced out.
6. Estrogen Levels: Sesame Seeds
Speaking of hormones, if you want to add another food to your diet that will help you out in this area, sesame seeds are perfect. Not only are they a wonderful source of virtually all B vitamins, these seeds are a good source of plant protein, fiber and antioxidants. Many nutritionists dig them because they support thyroid health, control blood sugar levels, encourage bone health, help to reduce bodily inflammation and can even decrease arthritic discomfort that may be specifically in your knees.
What particularly caught my attention about them, though, is sesame seeds are also an awesome source of phytoestrogens; that's good to know because our estrogen levels tend to be lower during our menstrual cycle and also when we're going through menopause.
7. Skin: Orange and Yellow Veggies
Flavonoids. Vitamins A, C and K. Potassium. Magnesium. These are some of the nutrients that are in orange and yellow vegetables. Thanks to the high amount of these vitamins that are in them, they are the kind of veggies that fight off free radicals, lower blood pressure, maintain oral health, promotes healthy joints, keeps your pH balanced, boosts your immunity and lowers your cholesterol levels. The reason why veggies like corn, yellow and orange peppers, carrots are great for your skin is because the beta-carotene (Vitamin A) that's in them will help to improve the texture of your skin as well as protect your skin from damaging UV rays.
8. Hair: Berries
Berries are a low-calorie fruit that's full of water and high in antioxidants and fiber. That alone should be enough of a reason to want to eat them more often, I would think. If you're looking for a sweet way to lower your cholesterol levels, improve your blood sugar levels, fight off free radicals, strengthen your body's arteries, boost brain power and even decrease your chances of being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a fresh bowl of berries can totally make that happen. Also, if healthy hair is what you're after, the flavonoid anthocyanin in berries like blueberries will help your body to produce the collagen that your hair needs to stay strong. Plus, the Vitamin C in berries will feed your hair follicles while increasing blood circulation to your scalp. And the Vitamin B in berries will give your follicles more oxygen in order to keep your scalp and hair in good shape.
9. Blood Health: Stinging Nettle
If you're not familiar with what stinging nettle is, it's basically an herb that has antimicrobial, anti-ulcer, astringent and analgesic properties. It's full of antioxidants too. If you're someone who is looking for a way to naturally treat a bladder infection, relieve joint pain, reduce hay fever-related symptoms or even make eczema symptoms more bearable, stinging nettle has totally got your back.
I decided to include it in this article, though, because of what it can do for your blood. Because stinging nettle is also an herb that is high in Vitamin C and iron, if you consume it a couple of times a week, it can help your body to produce more red blood cells which can prevent you from becoming anemic. It's also got the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol in it which is awesome because those help to lower your blood pressure and keep heart disease at bay.
10. Libido: Dark Chocolate
It's kind of crazy that something as delicious as dark chocolate would be as nutritious as it is. There is a ton of iron, fiber, magnesium, zinc, omega-6 fatty acids and copper, along with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that makes it well worth your time to have a 60-percent-of-cocoa-in-it piece a few times a week. Dark chocolate is also good for you because it can help to boost your mood, improve your blood sugar levels, reduce cancer cell growth, lower your (bad) cholesterol levels, reduce chances of strokes and heart attacks, protect your skin from sun damage, and even suppress your coughs. Plus, if you want to get in the mood (or get your partner in the mood), the compound phenylethylamine that's also in dark chocolate, along with the properties that in it can help to boost your libido and increases blood flow to your genital region so that you can enjoy sexual pleasure more.
11. Fertility: Aged Cheese
Uh-huh. I bet you didn't see this one coming, did you? Before getting into how aged cheeses can help you to conceive, let's first break down some of the cheeses that can easily go onto this list. Some include Fontina, Gruyere, Mochego Curado, Dry Monterey Jack, Parmesan, Piccante Provolone and Sharp-Aged Cheddar because they are all cheeses that have gone through the aging process for six months or more (you can check out a pretty comprehensive list of other aged cheeses on Kosher's site here). A few of the reasons why aged cheese is good for your overall health and well-being is because it's high in calcium, zinc, phosphorus, enzymes and protein, along with vitamins A, B12 and K. If you're someone who happens to be lactose-intolerant, there's a pretty good chance that you can still enjoy aged cheese because the processing of aged cheese means that very little (if any) lactose is in it. Aged cheese is also a probiotic food which also makes it good for your gut health.
As far as your fertility goes, these cheeses contain polyamines; they are proteins that help to keep eggs and sperm health. Now how dope is that? Oh! I almost forgot that aged cheeses have also been shown to increase longevity. Grilled cheese sandwich, anyone?
12. De-Stressor: Honey
One of the best things to ever happen to any of us is honey. The reason why I say that is it really is criminal that it can taste so good and offer up so many health benefits at the same time. If you opt for consuming raw honey (which is honey that isn't processed and has as many health benefits as possible), it contains enzymes, amino acids, B vitamins, Vitamin C, antioxidants and several minerals too. Eating honey can help to fight allergies (because it contains allergens which causes it to act much like a natural antibiotic); fights off free radicals; contains antibacterial properties to fight off salmonella and E. coli (for starters); promotes oral health, regulates blood sugar; reduces oxidative stress, and is a great hair and skin moisturizer (honey helps to heal pimples and fade acne marks too). Even with all of this, I'm actually closing out with honey because certain properties in honey are able to offer a calming effect and reduce anxiety. Just take a teaspoon of raw honey at night before turning in and you'll sleep more soundly and feel more relaxed, so that you can better handle whatever is coming the next day. Yep, definitely a superfood in every way. Enjoy!
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