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The best nutrition for women's bodies

By By Lorraine Waldropt-Ferguson

The Carnival season has just ended and very soon many women will return to their unhealthy routine (poor eating habits and little exercise) as the impetus to look fit and sexy is lost until next year's Carnival. Nevertheless, as we get older the motivator to exercise and live a healthy lifestyle should not only be to look great in a beaded bikini but to live a longer and comfortable life. The food we eat ultimately determines our lifespan and what disease we ward ourselves against.

Furthermore, nutritional needs of women are different from those of men. Women's bodies need special attention in order to be prepared for the numerous changes brought on by pregnancy, menopause and old age. Eating proper foods will ensure that women have all the nutrients they need for optimum health at every stage of life. On this note Woman Express has compiled a list of foods which are essential to a woman's health. Some of them require little or no preparation and they are foods we pass on shelves at the supermarket every day.

1. Avocados

The cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fat in these green vegetables can help keep your body strong and pain free. University of Buffalo researchers found that competitive women runners who ate less than 20 per cent fat were more likely to suffer injuries than those who consumed at least 31 per cent.

2. Bananas

The high potassium content in bananas renders it a speedy solution to that stitch in your side. While a lack of sodium is the main culprit behind muscle cramps, studies show potassium plays a supporting role: You need it to replace sweat loss and help with fluid absorption. Bananas are also packed with energising carbohydrates.

3.Broccoli

Few vegetables are as diverse as broccoli. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts pack a serious punch against cancer. That's one reason why Joel Fuhrman, MD, author of Eat for Health (Gift of Health Press) and Eat to Live (Little, Brown and Company), recommends eating foods from that family every day.

4.Beets

Colour aside, a 2008 American Heart Association study reported that beet (otherwise known as beetroot) juice is a superstar at bringing blood pressure down. According to Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth (Fair Winds Press), beets are loaded with potassium, which counteracts the effects of our salt-heavy diet. They're also high in folate, which we need to manufacture new cells and prevent DNA damage (a precursor to cancer).

5.Turmeric

Bring on the curry. Found in yellow curry dishes, turmeric is a member of the ginger family.

Curcumin, a plant nutrient that gives turmeric its deep golden hue, has long been used in Eastern medicine to treat infections and help speed wound healing.

Preliminary research in mice suggests that the spice may be useful in treating conditions like inflammation, digestive problems, arthritis and Alzheimer's.

6. Almonds

Prebiotics are non-digestible food parts that create probiotics when they pass through your intestines. Almonds, along with other high-fibre foods, belong to this category and may play a role in improving stomach problems, like irritable bowel disorders and diarrhoea, and boosting calcium absorption.

7. Cranberries

This fruit is a great antioxidant for women. Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, which are components that help prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder, and fight off urinary tract infections.

8.Yogurt

Including enough calcium in your diet is essential to a woman's health. Osteoporosis plagues older women, and maintaining enough calcium in your diet will keep bones healthy and strong. Yogurt also contains beneficial bacteria to keep the colon healthy.

9.Salmon

Salmon is low in saturated fat and high in protein and omega-3 essential fatty acids. These omega-3s will improve brain function and promote a healthy heart.

10. Sweet Potato

The sweet potato is full of beta carotene. Beta carotene is a form of Vitamin A responsible for helping the body repair its skin.

11.Lean Red Meat

Due to the menstrual cycle, a woman's iron levels can be compromised. To prevent iron deficiency and anaemia, include lean red meats as a source of iron to keep it at a healthy level.

12. Flaxseed

Flaxseed is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect a woman from heart disease. There was also a report in 2000 at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium showing that "adding flaxseed to the diet of women with breast cancer effectively slowed tumour growth."

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