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50 Foods the World’s Healthiest Women Eat Every Day

Pile your plate with these nutrition superstars.

Ingredients for spring vegetable buddha bowl. Delicious healthy food.  On a gray background, top view
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There are several risk factors that make women more vulnerable to certain diseases for men. For example, heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the U.S., killing 299,578 women in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fortunately, there are ways to fend off these serious diseases and protect your immune system, and it's by fortifying your diet with antioxidant-rich foods. These superfoods claim big bragging rights for lowering cholesterol, improving digestion, promoting weight loss, and maintaining healthy skin and hair. If you're eating most of these foods already, good for you, but if you're skimping on them, it's time to load up your grocery cart.

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Greek yogurt

Yogurt is a great way to get calcium, and it’s also rich in immune-boosting probiotics. But the next time you hit the yogurt aisle, pick up the Greek kind. Compared with regular yogurt, it has twice the protein (and 25% of women over 40 don’t get enough).

Try it: Apple Crisp Smoothie

Tasty sandwich with poached egg and avocado
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Egg yolks are home to tons of essential but hard-to-get nutrients, including choline, which is linked to lower rates of breast cancer. One large egg supplies 27% of your daily need alongside antioxidants that may help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. Bonus: You get 6 grams of muscle-building protein.

Try it: Spinach and Goat Cheese Egg Muffins

Raw salmon on baking paper
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Salmon is a rich source of vitamin D and one of the best sources of omega-3s fatty acids you can find. These essential fatty acids have a wide range of impressive health benefits—from preventing heart disease to smoothing your skin and aiding weight loss to boosting your mood. Unfortunately, many women aren’t reaping these perks because they're deficient. Omega-3s also slow the rate of digestion, which makes you feel fuller longer, so you eat fewer calories throughout the day.

Try it: Honey-Spiced Salmon with Quinoa

Pouring milk in the glass on the background of nature.
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Fat-free organic milk

Yes, milk does a body good: Studies show that calcium isn’t just a bone booster but a fat fighter too. Recent research from the University of Tennessee found that obese people who went on a low-calorie, calcium-rich diet lost 70 percent more weight than those who ate the least.

Milk is also a good source of vitamin D, which allows your body to absorb calcium. Research shows that adequate D levels can reduce heart disease risk, ward off certain types of cancer, relieve back pain, and even help prevent depression.

Seamless texture with legumes
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It’s hard to imagine a more perfect food than beans. One cooked cup can provide as much as 17 grams of fiber. They're also loaded with protein and dozens of key nutrients, including a few most women fall short on—calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Studies tie beans to a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast and colon cancers. Keep your cupboards stocked with all kinds: black, white, kidney, fat-free refried, etc.

Try it: Vegetable Chili with Cannellini and Kidney Beans

Grilled striploin steak
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Lean beef

Lean beef is one of the best-absorbed sources of iron there is. (Too-little iron can cause anemia.) Adding as little as one ounce of beef per day can make a big difference in the body’s ability to absorb iron from other sources, says Mary J. Kretsch, PhD, a researcher at the USDA-ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, CA.

Beef also packs plenty of zinc and B vitamins, which help your body convert food into energy. If you can, splurge on grass-fed beef. Compared with grain-fed beef, it has twice the concentration of vitamin E, a powerful brain-boosting antioxidant. It’s also high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Try it: Sheet Pan Steak With Beans and Broccolini

assorted nuts
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In a nutshell: USDA researchers say that eating 1.5 ounces of tree nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Walnuts are rich in omega-3s, while hazelnuts contain arginine, an amino acid that may lower blood pressure. An ounce of almonds has as many heart-healthy polyphenols as a cup of green tea. The key is moderation since nuts are high in calories. Keep a jar of chopped nuts in your fridge, and sprinkle a tablespoon on cereal, salads, stir-fries, or yogurt.

Try it: Tailgate Party Nut Mix

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70+ Healthy Meals that Keep You Satisfied

This 21-day weight loss plan helps reset your metabolism and includes substantial portions with the perfect balance of carbs (yes, carbs!), protein, and fat. Designed by celebrity nutritionist Sarah Mirkin, R.D.N., Fill Your Plate, Lose the Weight gives you an ultra-simple meal-building formula, delicious recipes, shopping lists and more.

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Soy-based foods, such as tofu, soy milk, and edamame, help fight heart disease when they replace fatty meats and cheeses, slashing saturated fat intake. Soy also contains heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats, a good amount of fiber, and some important vitamins. But stick with whole soy foods rather than processed foods, like veggie patties or chips. And, avoid taking soy supplements, which contain high and possibly dangerous amounts of isoflavones.

Try it: Corn, Mango, and Edamame Salad

oatmeal porridge with ripe berries
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Fiber-rich oats are even healthier than the FDA thought when it first stamped them with a heart disease-reducing seal 10 years ago. According to research, they can also cut your risk of type 2 diabetes. When Finnish researchers tracked 4,316 men and women over the course of 10 years, they found that people who ate the highest percentage of cereal fiber were 61 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Try it: Apple Oatmeal Muffins

flax seed in a jute bag
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Flaxseed is the most potent plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies indicate that adding flaxseed to your diet can help reduce the development of heart disease by 46 percent. It helps keep red blood cells from clumping together and forming clots that can block arteries. Sprinkle one to two tablespoons of flaxseeds a day on your cereal, salad, or yogurt. Buy it pre-ground, and keep it refrigerated.

Olive oil
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Olive oil

Olive oil is packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), which help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and raise "good" HDL cholesterol. It’s rich in antioxidants that can help reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, like Alzheimer’s. Look for extra-virgin oils for the most antioxidants and flavor. Drizzle small amounts on veggies before roasting; use it to sauté or stir-fry, in dressings and marinades, and to flavor bread at dinner in lieu of a layer of butter or margarine.

Try it: Baked Halibut With Roasted Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

They're high in the healthy kind of fats
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These smooth, buttery fruits are a great source of not only MUFAs but other key nutrients as well. "Avocados are packed with heart-protective compounds, such as soluble fiber, vitamin E, folate, and potassium," says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of 10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman's Diet. But since they're calorie-dense, be sure to watch your portion sizes. Use avocado in place of another high-fat food or condiment, such as cheese or mayo.

Try it: Salmon Salad with Avocado and Sweet Grape Tomatoes

Raw broccoli on wooden background
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Averaging just four weekly servings of veggies like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower slashed the risk of dying from any disease by 26 percent among 6,100 people studied for 28 years. For maximum disease-fighting benefits, whip out your old veggie steamer. It turns out that steaming broccoli lightly releases the maximum amount of sulforaphane, the active compound in cruciferous vegetables.

Try it: Roasted Broccoli with Orange

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We’ll spare you the Popeye jokes, but spinach has serious health muscles. For one thing, it's a rich source of lutein. Aside from guarding against age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness, lutein may prevent heart attacks by keeping artery walls clear of cholesterol. Spinach is also rich in iron, which helps deliver oxygen to your cells for energy, and folate, a B vitamin that prevents birth defects.

Try it: Spinach Barley Salad

Fresh tomatoes on wood background
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Tomatoes are our most common source of lycopene, an antioxidant that may protect against heart disease and breast cancer. The only problem with tomatoes is that we generally eat them in the form of sugar-loaded jarred pasta sauce or as a thin slice in a sandwich. For a healthier side dish, quarter plum tomatoes and coat with olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Roast in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes, and serve with chicken.

Try it: Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes and White Beans

Raw sweet potatoes on wooden background closeup
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Sweet potatoes

One of the best ways to get vitamin A—an essential nutrient that protects and maintains eyes, skin, and the linings of our respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tracts—is from foods containing beta-carotene, which your body converts into the vitamin. Beta carotene-rich foods include carrots, squash, kale, and cantaloupe, but sweet potatoes have among the most. A half-cup serving of these sweet spuds delivers only 130 calories but 80 percent of the DV of vitamin

Try it: Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes with Vanilla

Close up of purple garlic bunch
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Garlic is a flavor essential and a health superstar in its own right. The onion relative contains more than 70 active phytochemicals, including allicin, which studies show may decrease high blood pressure by as much as 30 points. Allicin also fights infection and bacteria. The key to healthier garlic: Crush the cloves, and let them stand for up to 30 minutes before heating them, which activates and preserves the heart-protecting compounds.

cesta con pimientos frescos
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Red peppers

Citrus fruits get all the credit for vitamin C, but red peppers are actually the best source. Vitamin C may be best known for skin and immunity benefits. Although getting enough vitamin C won’t prevent you from catching a cold or flu, studies show that it could help you recover faster.

Try it: Bulgar with Mushrooms and Roasted Red Peppers

Figs and Sweet Honey on Wooden Background
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When you think of potassium-rich produce, figs probably don’t come to mind, but you may be surprised to learn that six fresh figs have 891 milligrams of the blood pressure-lowering mineral, nearly 20 percent of your daily need—and about double what you’d find in one large banana. Figs are also one of the best fruit sources of calcium, with nearly as much per serving (six figs) as 1/2 cup of fat-free milk. Serve by chopping and adding to yogurt, cottage cheese, oatmeal, or green salads.

Try it: Stuffed Figs

Blueberries in garden
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Blueberries may very well be the most potent age-defying food—they’re jam-packed with antioxidants. Research shows a diet rich in blueberries can help with memory loss, prevent urinary tract infections, and relieve eyestrain. Add up to 1/2 cup of blueberries to your diet a day for maximum health benefits, recommends Ronald Prior, PhD, adjunct professor of food science at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. This alone provides just about double the amount of antioxidants most Americans get in one day.

Try it: Baked Peaches with Blueberries

Asian Pear
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Asian pears

One large Asian pear has a whopping 10 grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber, about 40 percent of your daily need. Serve by dicing it into a salad of Boston lettuce, crumbled goat cheese, walnuts, and mandarin oranges. Or make it a dessert: Add peeled and cored pears to a saucepan with one cup white wine, one teaspoon honey, one teaspoon grated fresh ginger, and enough water to cover the pears. Cover and simmer 40 minutes or until pears are soft.

Fresh lychee
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A French study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that lychee has the second-highest level of heart-healthy polyphenols of all fruits tested—nearly 15 percent more than the amount found in grapes. Serve by peeling or breaking the outer covering just below the stem. Use a knife to remove the black pit. Add to stir-fries or skewer onto chicken kebabs to add a naturally sweet flavor.

apple isolated on wood background
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One of the healthiest fruits you should be eating is one you probably already are: the apple. The Iowa Women’s Health Study, which has been investigating the health habits of 34,000 women for nearly 20 years, named apples as one of only three foods (along with pears and red wine) that are most effective at reducing the risk of death from heart disease among postmenopausal women.

Try it: Tuna and Carrot Salad Sandwiches

guava fruits
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Native to South America, this tropical fruit is an excellent source of skin-healing vitamin C, with 250 percent of your RDA per serving. One cup of guava has nearly 5 times as much vitamin C as a medium orange (377 milligrams versus 83 milligrams)—that’s more than five times your daily need. Guava makes a delicious fruit smoothie: Blend 1/2 banana, 1/2 ripe guava, a handful of strawberries, 1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk, and a few ice cubes. Check out these delicious smoothies recipes.

Close-Up Of Dark Chocolate On Table
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Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is filled with flavonoid antioxidants (more than three times the amount in milk chocolate) that keep blood platelets from sticking together and may even unclog your arteries. Go for dark chocolate with 70 percent or more cocoa. Two tablespoons of dark chocolate chips with fresh berries as a mid-afternoon snack or after-dinner dessert should give you some of the heart-healthy benefits without busting your calorie budget.

Pomegranate fruit on wooden vintage background
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Packed with antioxidant compounds, pomegranates have long been linked to both heart and brain health. One study found pomegranate polyphenols help your arteries expand and contract to manage blood flow and prevent hardening. A separate study found the same antioxidants help ward off the type of inflammation that leads to Alzheimer’s disease. To get the most benefit, eat the fruit’s seeds and some of the pith.

Try it: Pomegranate Salad

Raw Organic Bunch of Bananas
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Good old bananas are loaded with potassium—a macronutrient that helps control your blood pressure and keeps your nervous system operating at peak efficiency. Potassium also lowers your risk for stroke. But if you’re like most women, you’re consuming only half the potassium your body needs. One banana packs 450 milligrams—about 10 percent of your daily potassium target—as well as fiber to keep your digestive system running smoothly.

Try it: Grilled Banana Sandwiches

Jar of peanut butter with nuts.
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Peanut butter

From bone-strengthening magnesium to immunity-boosting B6, peanut butter is loaded with many of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Its high fiber and protein content will keep you full for hours, and peanut butter is also a good source of monounsaturated fats—proven to help you lose weight and ward off diabetes. Make sure to choose the unsweetened variety with no added sugar.

Try it: Asian Chicken Meatballs with Peanut Sauce

corn popcorn on a blue wooden background, as a snack for watching movies
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Packed with inflammation-fighting antioxidants, popcorn is the only 100 percent unprocessed whole grain, meaning its one of the best snacks to help you meet your daily whole grain goals. The only caveat: The pre-bagged, microwaveable varieties are loaded with calories and chemicals. Buy unvarnished kernels and pop them yourself in a stove top popper. Olive or truffle oils are delicious, healthy substitutions for butter.

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