5 foods every woman should eat more of: Leafy greens
Foods for Women: Page 3
3. Leafy greens
Leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, watercress, cabbage, turnip greens, collard greens, and arugula, share similar nutrient profiles, featuring impressive scores of vitamins K, A, and C; calcium; potassium; beta-carotene; manganese; folate; magnesium; iron; and dietary fiber.
Well-known research tracking 66,940 women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study found a 40 percent decrease in the incidence of ovarian cancer in women with the highest dietary kaempferol intake as compared to women with the lowest intake. Along with broccoli, kale is one of the best sources of kaempferol -- which has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Kaemperfol is also found in tea as well as in Brussels sprouts and other greens.
Spinach is extremely high in iron, which protects the immune system and helps the body produce energy. It's especially important for menstruating and pregnant women, who require higher levels of this nutrient. However, iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies for all women. Iron deficiency causes anemia and low energy due to decreased oxygen being delivered to the cells. You can find iron in most leafy greens; other good sources include chard, mustard greens, and romaine lettuce.
Dark leafy greens like Swiss chard, spinach, kelp, and turnip greens are also excellent sources of magnesium, which plays a significant role in many key biological processes. This miracle mineral has been credited with a slew of health benefits, including lowering high blood pressure, strengthening the immune system, strengthening bones, aiding in sleep, relaxing muscles, and relieving stress and anxiety.
Here are a few more good reasons to gobble up magnesium-rich foods: According to womenshealth.gov, migraines plague an estimated 29.5 million Americans, and roughly 75 percent of those affected are women. Magnesium has been shown to reduce the severity and recurrence of migraine headaches. And a study of 60 women with urinary urge incontinence found that magnesium supplementation improved the symptoms of overactive bladder in nearly half of participants. Magnesium also aids in calcium absorption, playing a significant role in preventing osteoporosis; several studies on humans have shown that magnesium helps maintain bone mineral density.
Finally, according to Mental Health America, about 12 million women in the U.S. experience clinical depression each year. It's estimated that women are twice as likely as men to experience depression. Depression has been linked to low levels of calcium and magnesium, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that a study comparing the bone mass of depressed premenopausal women to their nondepressed peers found that the depressed women had reduced bone mass and the most thinning in their hip bones, putting them at higher risk of fractures.
Many leafy greens boast high levels of Vitamin E, which helps stave off menopausal hot flashes. Excellent sources of Vitamin E include mustard greens, turnip greens, and Swiss chard; you can also find it in spinach, collard greens, and kale. Like broccoli, leafy greens are natural diuretics and are great for combating bloat and water retention.
Swiss chard and spinach are two of the most calcium-dense plant foods on earth. Calcium is a particularly important nutrient for women; it's needed to build healthy bones and to prevent bone loss after menopause. Women who consume diets rich in calcium and vitamin D are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes and to experience premenstrual symptoms. Not only does calcium help build strong bones and teeth, it also plays a role in blood clotting, muscle contraction, and regulating heartbeat.
Magnesium and calcium aren't the only nutrients that contribute to bone health, though. Vitamin K is vital for bone health and plays a unique role in helping prevent osteoporosis. Just because you have sufficient calcium in your diet doesn't necessarily mean it will find its way to your bones -- and that's where vitamin K comes in. It helps calcium adhere to the bone, aiding in its absorption. In fact, without adequate vitamin K, calcium can deposit itself in joint and muscle tissue, creating painful problems and preventing absorption in the bone. Calcium deposits in soft tissue are more prevalent in women than men, so vitamin K is especially important for women. It's found in abundance in most leafy greens, particularly spinach, kale, and Swiss chard.
Quick and healthy tip: To get the most nutrition out of your leafy greens, you'll need to add a little healthy fat to help your body absorb the nutrients. Sautee dark leafy greens in coconut oil over medium heat until just wilted. Optional: Add a small handful of golden raisins while sautéing, or serve with a small handful of raw pine nuts.