13 of the Best Summer Superfoods for Women
What superfoods will help make your summer—and the rest of your life—healthier? We have an expert-approved list just for you.
Women have unique needs
When it comes to nutrition, the needs of men and women overlap in many areas. But differences exist, too. For instance, women need more iron than men. And pregnant or breastfeeding women have many specific nutrient needs. They need more vitamins and minerals—including vitamin C, folate, vitamin B12, iodine and zinc—than the typical adult. Because of these unique needs, we asked nutritional experts to weigh in and help us create a list of summer superfoods handpicked for women.
These red gems are at their prime availability in the summer. “Cherries contain anthocyanins, the component that gives cherries their rich red color,” notes Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Anthocyanins are flavonoids that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, which help reduce the risk for chronic diseases.” Add fresh cherries to cool oatmeal, fresh salsa or chicken lettuce wraps. You can learn more about inflammation-fighting foods here.
These crunchy nuts can add nutrition to so many dishes. “One my go-to superfoods for women is walnuts,” says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, a dietitian in New York City and a nutrition partner with California Walnuts.” A preliminary study shows promising results that walnut consumption could play a role in suppressing the growth and survival of breast cancers. Researchers believe that a variety of nutrients in walnuts—including good polyunsaturated fats, antioxidants and fiber—could be contributing to these positive effects.” In addition to enjoying walnuts at snack time, add them to roasted veggies, fresh salads and banana bread. Can’t get enough? Check out these walnut recipes.
“This summertime favorite is full of lycopene, a disease-fighting nutrient benefitting women by helping to lower their risk of cancer and heart disease,” says Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, a dietitian in Osage City, KS. “Since lycopene is fat-soluble, add a healthy fat such as olive oil to tomatoes to boost absorption.” Mix tomatoes into a garden salad or a vegetarian pasta dish. Or, find more fresh tomato recipes here.
Did you know fresh fruit boasts a super high percentage of water? “It’s literally bursting with fluid,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, a dietitian in Boston, MA. “A cup of cubed watermelon supplies nearly 5 ounces of fluid to help you stay hydrated in the hot summer weather. It also offers the antioxidant lycopene, plus potassium for fluid balance. Freeze it in slices for even more fun.” You can also enjoy watermelon in a spinach salad, gorgeous gazpacho or hydrating slush. When you’re buying watermelon, use these smart tricks to ensure it’s ripe.
These crunchy seeds pack a big nutrition punch for their size! “Flaxseed, a superfood providing omega-3 fatty acids and lignans, is well known for helping to promote hormone balance,” says Bailee Hart, RDN, a dietitian in Los Angeles. “This can be especially beneficial during menopausal years and is a viable alternative option to hormone replacement therapy. Women in menopause can try adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to their smoothies this summer to help reduce hot flashes, mood swings, and night sweats.” Also add flaxseed to oatmeal pancakes, healthy cookies or easy biscuits
“All berries contain plenty of powerful cancer-fighting nutrients called anthocyanins, which can help reduce the risk of several types of cancer—including breast cancer,” says Melissa Mitri, MS, RD, a dietitian in Milford, CT. These antioxidants also help protect the heart. Incorporate berries into a balsamic corn salad, fruity smoothie and even a savory chicken dish. There’s a reason berries are one of the foods anti-aging experts eat every day.
In addition to heart-healthy fats, this green superfood boasts many other nutrients. “Avocado provides vitamins B6, folate and magnesium,” says nutrition blogger Jeanette Kimszal, RDN. “These compounds are needed for hormone production, and they help with symptoms of PMS.” Folate has other benefits, too. “It is important for women’s health since it helps make DNA and other genetic materials that are especially needed during pregnancy,” notes Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, author of 365 Snacks for Every Day of the Year. Whip up a batch of avocado salsa, stuffed avocado crab boats or even an avocado fruit salad.
“This grain is loaded with fiber and protein to aid with weight control and digestion,” says nutrition blogger Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD. The combination of fiber and protein helps to keep you fuller for longer, which can help decrease the urge to snack. Mix quinoa into a black bean and corn dish, unstuffed peppers or a hearty chowder. Then find out the other foods you need to start eating this year.
“Let’s be real: Women need chocolate,” says nutrition blogger Michele Fumagalli, RD. “Luckily, a serving of 70 to 85 percent dark chocolate is a perfect way to satisfy a craving while also providing powerful antioxidants, fiber and magnesium. Have a square of dark chocolate with your coffee.” The flavonoids in chocolate can also help your brain function optimally, finds research. Unsweetened cocoa powder also does the trick, and this antioxidant-rich food mixes well into many recipes. Enjoy it in fruit and nut bark, truffles or one of these other decadent recipes.
These protein sources boast many nutrients that are helpful to women. “Eggs provide choline, a nutrient not only tied to brain health and development but also a reduced risk of breast cancer,” says Sarah Anzlovar, MA, RDN, a dietitian in Boston, MA. Enjoy eggs on baked potatoes, atop avocado toast or as part of a Buddha bowl. If you need more inspiration, check out our collection of 100 ways to eat eggs.
This drink can be so refreshing in the summer, especially when iced. In addition to providing heart benefits, green tea is a superfood beverage for women because it provides antioxidants that may help protect the skin from aging caused by UV rays. Sip green tea with lemon and thyme or as part of a refreshing iced melon beverage.
Here’s a reason to eat your purple fruit: “Prunes contain vitamin K and potassium, which are important for healthy bones,” says nutrition blogger Josten Fish, RD. “Studies have actually shown that daily consumption of prunes in women can help prevent bone loss.” Eat prunes with pork or in a cake. If you want more foods that will help keep you healthy as you get older, check out the foods everyone over 50 should probably be eating.
This peppery-tasting veggie is perfect to add to your summer salads and more. “Arugula is a flavorful, nutrient-dense leafy green to enjoy all summer long,” says Emily Wunder, RD, a dietitian in Nutley, NJ. “With only 10 calories for two cups, arugula can be a great base to all your summer salads, or you can add it to a sandwich.” Arugula provides an excellent amount of vitamin K, too. “Women need vitamin K for bone density to help prevent osteoporosis,” says Wunder. Enjoy the power green in an orzo salad, with grilled chicken or even atop pizza!