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Choose “superfoods” to boost your health

Kristi Spence, sports dietician at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital in Murray, spends a lot of time preparing healthy, delicious foods. She also teaches the athletes who train here how to prepare them at home. Almost all of the meals she makes contain at least one “superfood.”

“Superfoods, in my mind, are packed with vitamins and minerals,” says Spence. “I think of superfoods as being "colorful" foods.”

Spence says that women in America spend so much time worrying about what to eat or not eat, so they don't often get the nutrients they need for optimum health. Women need to pay close attention to their diets, she says, and focusing on superfoods can help them stay on track.

“Women tend to kind of cut out entire food groups more frequently so they're restricting certain types and amounts of foods that put them at risk for deficiencies of certain nutrients. Also, women go through a lot more issues related to life-cycle nutrition than men might, so in terms of pregnancy and breastfeeding and menopause, all of those conditions actually make women a little bit unique in terms of their nutrition needs.”

Studies show that superfoods, like berries, red grapes and salmon, may also help to prevent or decrease symptoms of heart disease, certain cancers and even Alzheimer’s disease, which is why it's important to include some in your diet every day.

Spence says many of the superfoods contain super nutrients – vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, antioxidents and flavinoids, which are produced by plants as a defense mechanism – a way to stay strong and healthy. And, so when humans consume those plants, we benefit from those natural defenses as well.

But, superfoods are not just fruits and vegetables. Fish and lean red meat are also near the top of the list, especially for women.

“The reason I like to emphasize getting lean red meat is that one, it's a good source of protein and two, women have more propensity to developing iron deficiency and anemia then men do,” says Spence. “The iron in lean red meat is very bio-available, which means our body can absorb it and use it well.”

But it’s not just women who benefit from eating superfoods. Spence says that men commonly ignore many of these foods, especially fruit and green vegetables.

 “The one thing for parents to remember, both women and men, is that they are role models for their children. What parents do is what their kids will do. If it's OK for the husband in the family to not eat vegetables, the kids' are going to expect that they don't have to eat vegetables, too.”

When it comes to whole grains, Spence recommends quinoa (keen-WAH), an ancient South American grain that is packed with protein and only takes 15 minutes to cook.

Elizabther Somer, dietician and author of "Nutrition for Women" lists her top 16 superfoods for women:

  1. Extra-lean red meat
  2. Salmon
  3. Spinach
  4. Berries
  5. Wheat germ
  6. Tomato paste
  7. Nonfat yogurt
  8. Sweet potatoes
  9. Oranges
  10. Old-fashioned oatmeal
  11. Curry
  12. Ginger
  13. Black Beans
  14. Tea
  15. Fresh Herbs
  16. Dark Chocolate

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