Healthy Living Blog

Happy Mother’s Day! Top Foods for Women

Tina Miller 2011Tina Miller, MS RD Meijer Healthy Living Advisor,


1. Low-fat yogurt (eat a serving 5 or more days/week):   Cultured dairy products, like yogurt with live and active cultures, are a good source of healthy bacteria (probiotics) that help maintain bowel health, regularity, support immunity, and reduce risk for digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.  Yogurt may also reduce risk for stomach ulcers, vaginal infections, and possibly breast cancer.

Yogurt is also a great source of calcium (about 450mg per 1 cup, vs. milk with 300mg per 1 cup), vitamin D and protein.  Greek yogurt is strained longer than traditional yogurt, making it thicker and higher in protein (lower lactose, the carbohydrate source in dairy).

Be aware of how much sugar is in the yogurt you’re eating.  Use NuVal™ at Meijer and select yogurts with higher scores for better nutrition.  Fruit on the bottom and flavored yogurts can provide a significant amount of sugar (in some cases more than 5 teaspoons), so look for yogurt 15g or less sugar that comes from the naturally occurring lactose in dairy products.

2. Omega-3 Fat Rich Fish and Seafood (Salmon, Tuna):  Current health recommendations are to eat 12 ounces of fish each week (about 3 servings).  The Omega-3 fats (DHA and EPA) have several important roles in health which includes maintaining healthy cell membranes, nourishing the brain for cognition and memory, and reducing inflammation-decreasing joint pain and risk for heart disease and stroke. Inflammation also contributes to auto-immune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, making fish an excellent food choice for women.

Fish is versatile and can be grilled, baked or broiled with fresh or dried herbs and citrus juice to enhance flavor.  Also enjoy pan-fried fish prepared in small amounts of healthy oils, but limit your intake of deep fried fish.

3. Flaxseed and Chia Seeds:  These are popular ingredients in foods and supplements targeted to women, primarily because of three potentially beneficial compounds in flax and chia: plant based omega 3 fats, fiber (an effective laxative), and the third found in flax, disease-fighting compounds called lignans. A Mayo Clinic study finds 40 grams (about 2 Tbsp.) of crushed flaxseed can cut down on hot flashes, and several reports suggest flax can lower “bad” or LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Flaxseeds also contain compounds that may have a beneficial role in the prevention of breast cancer.

Use ground flaxseed and chia seed to get the most benefit (whole seeds are not readily digested).  Once open or ground, store in the refrigerator to prevent the delicate omega-3 fats from becoming rancid.  Add to any baked good recipe, sprinkle on top of your salads or cereal, and stir into yogurt.

4. Beans and Legumes:    Beans are a good source of protein and fiber and may have protective effects against heart disease and breast cancer.  Most of us only get about 15g of fiber per day, falling well short of the recommended 25-35g.  A 3/4 cup serving of beans provides 10g fiber and can easily help fill the fiber gap.   Aim to eat beans at least 3-5 times each week.

As a source of functional (soluble) fiber, beans can help lower cholesterol, and their antioxidants (isoflavones) can help in the regulation of hormones and may aid with PMS, perimenopause, or menopause symptoms.  Soybeans have the greatest concentration of these beneficial compounds, however many varieties of beans are also good sources of female friendly isoflavones.

Beans also contain protease inhibitors, which may help protect against breast cancer. Protease inhibitors help slow the division of cancer cells and in this way may prevent tumor formation.  Beans are also a good source of B vitamins, including folic acid which is essential for women in their reproductive years to help prevent neural tube birth defects.

5. Tomatoes (or watermelon, red grapefruit, red navel oranges):  The antioxidant pigment, lycopene, is well known for protective effects against prostate cancer, however women can also benefit from this powerful antioxidant.  Research suggests that lycopene may be protective against breast, cervical and uterine cancers.  Lycopene also reduces risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in post-menopausal women.

And, to keep us looking young, current research shows that lycopene may also help protect against UV damage from the sun.

Eat a serving of “red foods” like tomatoes, red grapefruit, and watermelon every day.

6. Kale and other Dark Green Leafy Vegetables: Kale and other deep greens are packed with nutrients and very low in calories (about 35 calories per 1 cup cooked).   Rich in antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin protect the eye.  A serving of deep greens provides days’ worth of vitamin C and minerals that support energy such as magnesium and iron.  Kale is also a good source of vitamin K, a potent bone builder. Researchers find that women who eat diets rich in vitamin K are at lower risk of hip fracture.

Kale and deep greens are also a good source of B vitamins, including folic acid, that are important for reproductive health.  Eat a serving of dark greens, such as Kale (or baby kale) every day.

7. Blueberries and Cranberries: These berries are truly super foods!  Blueberries are the #1 antioxidant food protecting body cells from the daily assault of environmental pollutants, poor foods choices and stress.  Research shows that blueberries, just 1 cup per day, can promote neurogenesis—the production of new brain cells (at any age). Blueberries also help to improve memory, cognition, and may help to reduce risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Antioxidants berries (proanthocyanidins) also prevent chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes and cancers.

Just one serving of cranberries everyday (1 cup cranberry juice cocktail, 1/4 cup dried cranberries) may help reduce the risk of urinary tract infections in women.  The antioxidants in cranberries form a coating around bacteria (E-coli) and prevent it from adhering to the tissues in the urinary tract system (and other areas of the body) helping prevent infection from occurring.


Mother’s Day Breakfast in Bed!

Mixed Berry French Toast Bake

Serves 8


1 loaf Meijer fresh artesian multigrain bread, cubed

6 egg whites

3 Meijer large whole eggs (NuVal™ 33)

1 ¾ cups Meijer fat free milk (NuVal™ 91)

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. McCormick® ground cinnamon

1 tsp. McCormick® vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

1 package (12 oz.) Meijer berry medley frozen berries (NuVal™ 91)

2 Tbsp. Meijer butter

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

Meijer non-stick extra virgin olive oil spray


  1. Place bread cubes in a 13 inch x 9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the egg whites, eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt.
  3. Pour previous mixture over bread. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours.
  4. Thirty minutes before baking, remove berries from the freezer and set aside.
  5. Remove baking dish from refrigerator and bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  6. In a small bowl, cut butter into brown sugar until the mixture crumbles.
  7. Sprinkle berries and brown sugar mixture over French toast.  Bake, uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Nutrition  per Serving: 278 calories, 6g fat (2.5g saturated fat), 88mg cholesterol, 545mg, sodium, 44g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 12g protein.

Adapted From: Taste of Home.