Written by contributor Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship.
“Less cellulite at 30 than 20?” My friend was ready to eat the next words out of my mouth when I told her I blamed one dietary change for my incredible loss of cellulite.
Quite often others counter my claim with a strange question: “How do you know?”
I’m sure their intentions are simply curious, but it’s a little uncomfortable to answer the obvious: “Um…I can see it.” My husband, as the only other person qualified to analyze the situation, concurs (with great joy, I assure you).
Men, I’ve noticed, do not worry about their cellulite. They also do not discuss monthly flow, experience PMS, or bear children. Although women often go to great lengths to prove that they are equal to men, we are far from “the same.”
Women’s Health Issues
When it comes to women’s health, there are many ways women have different challenges and different opportunities than men:
- Women can bear children; men can’t. This alone opens the door to a huge list of health care topics, such as menstruation, PMS, fertility/ovulation, healthy pregnancies, and menopause.
- Breastfeeding and postpartum care
- Higher risk of breast cancer, osteoporosis
- Different signs and symptoms of heart disease
- Estrogen balance (Men have testosterone to balance, and we ought not be sharing our estrogen with them, one of the many reasons natural family planning is the green way to go.)
Considering I’m barely scratching the surface of women’s health issues, it seems clear that women ought to have some different dietary focuses than men.Photo by veganfeast
Five Foods Women of Childbearing Age Should Eat More Often
The whole womb thing really sets us apart from men. Ladies, if you’re having menstrual cycles, trying to conceive, pregnant, breastfeeding, or nearing or experiencing menopause, make sure you’re paying attention to your intake of:
Whole eggs, especially the yolks, provide choline for healthy eyes and brain development (for you and any unborn babies in your life), vitamin D for general health, and all the essential nutrients a human being needs. If you have a meal of one item, it may as well be eggs, which are nearly the perfect food for humans. Pay no mind to disillusioned health professionals who tell you the cholesterol in eggs will clog up your arteries. Whole eggs are back in style.
They won’t raise blood sugar because they’re a well-balanced protein and fat, and they even improve the look of your hair and nails. Eggs provide iron, which is hindered by calcium, so skip the milk with your omelet. Did you know Chinese women eat ten per DAY when pregnant? I shot for two eggs a day when I was trying to grow smart babies.
- Find Perfect Nutrition in a Whole Egg (no egg white omelets, please!)
- What do Labels on Egg Cartons Mean?
- Strawberry Milkshake (with raw eggs*)
- How to Eat More Eggs
- Eggs = Fertility Superfood
- Vitamin D Creates Lower Risk Pregnancies
*Food safety note: eggs should be consumed raw, very undercooked, for superb health benefits. However, I would only advise eating raw eggs from a trusted source with free range, well-cared-for chickens.
Spinach may just be, as Popeye would have us believe, the ultimate superfood. It battles nearly every disease you can think of, but it’s especially important for pregnant women because of the high level of folic acid, along with iron, and even protein, all vital for fetal development and mother’s health. The lutein in spinach, especially when paired with eggs, is a powerful weapon against eye degeneration.
Why folic acid/folate? This B-vitamin is vital for a pre-conception/pregnancy diet; helps prevent birth defects, specifically spina bifida; builds baby’s brain; and helps avoid premature birth, high blood pressure, low birth weight and miscarriage.1 For those not looking to conceive, folic acid can help prevent strokes, heart disease, depression, and cancer.2Photo by slave2thetea
- Spinach: to Cook or Not to Cook, plus how many days it takes for the folic acid to disappear – eat it quickly!
- Best Scrambled Eggs Ever (no, this is not in the wrong category)
- I don’t see any spinach in this Strawberry Peach Slushie (but it’s there!)
- Video: How to Make a Green Smoothie
Fish can be a tough menu item for most homes: it’s notoriously easy to cook incorrectly, is often high on the “I don’t like it” list, can be expensive, and is rife with controversy about whether it’s safe to eat or not. Wild salmon is also the very best way to get your omega 3s and DHA, which support hormones, fight depression and help mood issues.
Fish also battles menstrual pain, osteoporosis, breast cancer and negative effects of menopause. Salmon improves babies’ IQs when eaten by pregnant or breastfeeding moms. If ever there was a food for women contest, I’d give a blue ribbon to wild salmon.Photo by Katie Kimball
That said, it is important to know how to find safe salmon. Luckily, the inexpensive stuff in the cans is almost always “wild Alaskan” and can be easily made into no-fail salmon patties. (Eat the bones, too, for an incredible calcium boost!) Now if I could just get my husband not to run screaming from the room when I open the can…
Don’t be afraid of eating fish – they have more benefits than deficits. An article from Harvard states: “Women should recognize that avoiding seafood altogether is likely to harm their babies’ brain development.”
4. Full fat dairy/butterPhoto by Katie Kimball
Do you buy skim milk? Always grab the low-fat/fat-free versions of your favorite dairy products? If you’re hoping to conceive anytime soon, you may be making it an uphill battle for your womb. Research shows that women who eat low-fat dairy twice a day have an 85% greater risk of anovulatory infertility than those who go for the real thing.5, 6
When I recommend one change to someone seeking pregnancy, it is always to get rid of all the butter substitutes, margarine, and shortening in the house, pronto, and switch to real butter. You’re not only cutting out toxic trans fats and industrial oils, but you’re adding brain-boosting saturated fats. Grassfed butter in particular, although pricey, has incredibly higher levels of Vitamins D, A, E and K2.7
No matter what your gender, fat-soluble vitamins like A and D must be eaten with fat to be metabolized in the body. Your salad with fat-free dressing? Practically useless. You need to dip those carrots in a fat-full dressing in order to get the Vitamin A into your cells where it belongs.
If you’re worried that going from low-fat to “Hi there, fat!” will make you fat, you’re not alone. For our family, I can truthfully say that in nearly two years of trying to incorporate more fat into our diets, including going from skim milk to farm fresh, grassfed milk with at least three inches of pure cream on the top of every gallon, neither my husband or I have gained a pound, and his cholesterol even dropped the first year. You might also like to read Kelly’s “Does Fat Make You Fat?”.
- Superfoods for Fertility
- Giuliana Rancic: Low Fat and Infertile
- 100 Ways to Eat More Fat
- What Kind of Milk Should I Buy?
- Butter vs. Margarine vs. Spreads
- All Milk is Not Created Equal
5. LiverPhoto by Kevinzim
If that sounds a little “primal” or “hunter-type” to you who would rather be a gatherer and eat some berries and nuts, check this out – liver has one of the highest level of B vitamins8, 9, 10 and iron11, 12 of any food. B Vitamins give energy (what woman, especially a mom, doesn’t need more of that?), and iron is super important for women because of the quarter cup of menstrual blood we lose every month (I know, it seems like more sometimes).
“Women of childbearing age have an RDA of 15 mg per day for iron, which doubles with pregnancy.”13 Iron also keeps energy up and helps avoid anemia. Iron deficiency anemia affects about 20% of all women and fully half of mothers-to-be, yet only 3% of men.14 “Having too little iron can result in fatigue, hair loss and brittle nails (Oh, vanity!), irritability, weakness, lack of being able to think clearly, etc.” (Sarah of Heartland Renaissance)
The famous liver and onions might not go over well at your kitchen table (it didn’t the one time I tried it), but putting a bit of liver in with hamburgers, meatloaf, casseroles, spaghetti and soups is a great way to incorporate a cheap superfood with power-packed nutrients. Just be sure to only eat liver from organic sources, preferably local and grassfed, as factory farmed beef or chicken livers would be a net for toxins.
If you really can’t handle the liver, red meat like beef provides a great deal of iron and B Vitamins, too. If you can find grassfed beef, meaning the cattle eat only real grass or harvested hay and alfalfa, you get the most nutrients and a good source of CLA, a healthy fat that’s hard to find elsewhere, and even a high level of omega 3s. Don’t be afraid of red meat, ladies.
- Do You Have Adrenal Fatigue?
- Superfood Muffins: Liver, Beef and Garlic
- Pumping the Iron for Mama, Baby and Toddler
- Health Benefits of Grassfed Meat
Those among you who are very astute readers will notice I didn’t even share the secret cellulite solution. It turns out it was easier to choose ten amazing super foods than five, and you’ll have to hang tight until next month for part two of the series, 5 Foods Everyone Should Eat More of for Optimal Health (and Avoiding the Flu!), with a special emphasis on women’s health. There are two foods that fight the flu and cellulite, believe it or not!
Until then, I hope you’re as inspired as I was when I served salmon patties fried in butter and a spinach salad last night, along with egg drop soup for my fish-hating husband. I can’t tell you where I hid the liver in the meal; he might be reading!
So ladies…your turn to dish out. What foods do you hold near and dear in your diet?
Note: I asked many real food bloggers to help me out with this question, and special thanks goes to those quoted and cited in this article, along with Shannon, Sarah, Ann Marie, Donielle, and Michele.