When it comes to keeping your body in tip-top-shape, what you eat is so important. Yes, getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night and staying active during the day will better your health, improve your mood, and lower your risk of various diseases, but you can't stay well and fuel your body without the right set of nutrients. And if you're eating pastries and processed items all day (or even not eating much at all), you're going to feel it (think: fatigue, crankiness, low energy and more).
Pictured recipe: Avocado Toast with Burrata
Plus, if you aren't packing your plate with good fats, lean proteins, and fresh produce on a regular basis, you can jeopardize your health long-term, opening the door to weight gain and increased risk of chronic conditions like heart disease or diabetes. Luckily, there are a few foods that are especially beneficial for women in terms of boosting immunity, aiding in weight management and protecting your heart. Here are 10 foods that every woman should eat every week for optimal health (and delicious, flavorful meals, too!).
Learn more: 10 Everyday Superfoods
"This tropical fruit is known for its abundance of 'good fats', and studies show that replacing saturated fat with the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat found in avocados can reduce the risk of heart disease," says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD. Enjoy on toast, with eggs, on top of a salad or in a creamy dressing, or even in healthy steak tacos.
Pictured recipe: Air-Fryer Crispy Chickpeas
"Beans are an affordable source of protein and fiber, and they contain important vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium and folate," she says. Pack them into tortillas, plant-based burgers (or you can halve the meat to reduce intake), grain bowls, dips and more. They might make you a little gassy (there is some truth to that song), but they are good for your gut, so eat up.
Pictured recipe: Mermaid Smoothie Bowl
"These tiny berries pack a nutritional punch. One serving (a cup) of blueberries contains only 80 calories and contributes essential nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, dietary fiber and phytonutrients called polyphenols, to the diet," Rizzo says. Plus, there is plenty of positive research surrounding blueberries, including a new study that found that eating one cup of blueberries per day significantly reduced the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, and increased good cholesterol (HDL). Good thing these healthy berries are so tasty too.
Pictured recipe: Garlic-Parmesan Roasted Brussels Sprouts
You may have hated them as a kid, but it's time to learn to love them (if you haven't already started) There are so many new, creative ways to cook with Brussels sprouts, kids will love them, too! "This mini cabbages are good sources of fiber, a nutrient that keeps the heart and digestive system running smoothly. And they roast up nicely with some oil and salt," adds Rizzo. Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, which are particulary nutrient dense and may help fight cancer.
Pictured recipe: Polenta Bowls with Roasted Vegetables & Fried Eggs
"Not only do eggs have protein, but they are one of the only food sources of Vitamin D. They also contain two carotenoids—lutein and zeaxanthin—which are important for brain and eye health," Rizzo says. Plus, they're delicious and versatile. Enjoy hard boiled, in a scramble, in an omelet, or on top of a burger. They work for every meal of the day!
Related: Top Vegetarian Protein Sources
Pictured recipe: Spinach Salad with Raspberries, Goat Cheese & Hazelnuts
These dark, green veggies are amazing for keeping the sniffles at bay and promoting a fresh, dewy complexion as you age. "Leafy greens are excellent source of Vitamin C, which promote a healthy immune system and aid in the production of wrinkle-fighting collagen in the body," she says. Try baby spinach in salads, kale in smoothies or bok choy in a stir fry.
Pictured recipe: Red Cabbage Salad with Blue Cheese & Maple-Glazed Walnuts
"Nuts are good source of protein and healthy fats, both of which are important nutrients for satisfying hunger and curbing appetite," Rizzo adds. As an added bonus, a recent review found strong evidence that suggests eating walnuts may support heart healthy by reducing cholesterol and triglycerides levels. So, feel free to enjoy walnuts in a morning yogurt or oatmeal. Other nutty ideas—peanut butter toast or a DIY trail mix with nuts and dried fruit.
Pictured recipe: Chocolate-Banana Overnight Oats
Oatmeal, is also a great option for women, whether for breakfast or a quick snack. "This gluten-free grain is a go-to in my kitchen because it's versatile, inexpensive and offers protein and fiber to help keep me full all morning long," says Rizzo. Plus, "oats contain a special fiber called beta-glucan, which has been shown to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease," she adds.
Pictured recipe: Taco-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
"The orange color of the sweet potato comes from beta-carotene, a precursor for Vitamin A. Because of this, the average size sweet potato can have up to 600% of your daily dose of Vitamin A— a nutrient that is crucial for eye health, bone development and a healthy immune system," according to Rizzo. Plus, they make a delicious and healthier plate of fries if you're craving a salty, crunchy snack and don't want to resort to a fast food joint. Sweet potatoes are also a healthy source of complex carbohydrates, so they help keep you full and won't spike your blood sugar.
Pictured recipe: Rainbow Yogurt Bowl
When choosing a yogurt, Rizzo advises, "Look for the Greek or skyr varieties because they have more protein and plenty of bone building calcium." Yogurts also have gut healthy bacteria to improve digestion and help with weight management, she adds. Watch out for the fruited varieties, which can be loaded with added sugar and excess calories. Plain yogurt is best, and then you can add your own toppings, like fresh fruit or nuts.