12 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 and breastfeeding women have many specific nutrient needs. They need more of many vitamins and minerals—including vitamin C, folate, vitamin B12, iodine, and zinc—than the typical adult. Many more differences in nutritional needs exist, which is why experts weighed in to create this list of summer superfoods handpicked especially 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 cherry oatmeal, cherry mint salsa, or protein French toast. (To incorporate more inflammation-fighting foods into your day, get the food rules of an anti-inflammatory diet.)
"This summertime favorite is full of lycopene, a disease-fighting nutrient benefiting women by helping to lower their risk of cancer and heart disease," says Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, a dietitian in Osage City, Kansas. "Since lycopene is fat-soluble, add a healthy fat such as olive oil to tomatoes to boost absorption." Mix tomatoes into homemade Mexican salsa or a vegetarian rice bowl.
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. "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 fruit skewers, watermelon salad, or a watermelon slushie. Learn how to pick out the perfect watermelon.
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 a healthy broccoli slaw recipe, chocolate waffles, or fruit pizza. Check out more healthy reasons to eat flaxseeds.
"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, Connecticut. These antioxidants also help protect the heart. Incorporate berries into a blueberry peanut butter smoothie, blackberry bread pudding, or a brie appetizer with blueberries. There's a reason berries are one of the 15 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 an avocado deviled eggs recipe, healthy avocado smoothie, or avocado chocolate pudding. And learn 7 health benefits of avocados you probably didn't know.
"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 quinoa sliders, a citrus salad recipe, or a chicken quinoa bake.
"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 a review of research published in Frontiers in Nutrition. Unsweetened cocoa powder also does the trick, and this antioxidant-rich food mixes well into many recipes. Enjoy it in chocolate ice cream, almond butter protein balls, or chocolate truffles. Get the list of healthy desserts that can actually help you lose weight.
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. Enjoy eggs in hummus toast, breakfast panini, or breakfast tacos. Then take a look at these 54 delicious ways to have 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. Read about green tea's many health benefits. Sip green tea in a sangria mocktail or a ginger latte—or mix it into green muffins.
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 in a Mediterranean vegetable salad, prune jam, or avocado chocolate brownies. If you want more foods that will help keep you healthy, check out the healthiest foods to eat in every food group.
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, New Jersey. "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 a vegan power bowl, arugula salad, or arugula crostini.
- Harvard Health: “Good nutrition: Should guidelines differ for men and women?”
- Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute: “Micronutrient Needs During Pregnancy and Lactation”
- Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Are Oats Good for Weight Loss? Here's the Answer, Plus a Recipe for Microwave Cherry Oatmeal Bowl”
- Your Choice Nutrition: “Cherry Mint Salsa”
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Protein French Toast + 11 Healthy Meals to Make”
- Nutrition Research: “Dietary walnut altered gene expressions related to tumor growth, survival, and metastasis in breast cancer patients: a pilot clinical trial”
- Craving Something Healthy: “Chocolate Walnut Hummus”
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Cinnamon Spice Muffins + 7 Kids’ Cooking Projects”
- Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, a dietitian in Osage City, Kansas
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Homemade Mexican Salsa with Baked Flatbread Chips”
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Vegetarian Rice Bowl with Chickpeas, Tomato, and Okra”
- Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, a dietitian in Boston
- Jessica Levinson: “Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Skewers”
- Nourished by Nutrition: “Spicy Watermelon Jicama Salad”
- Marisa Moore: “Sparkling Watermelon Lime Slush”
- Bailee Hart, RDN, a dietitian in Los Angeles
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Broccoli Slaw Recipe + RD Tips to Eat More Veggies”
- Stephanie Lee Nutrition: “Dark Chocolate Flaxseed Waffles”
- Your Choice Nutrition: “Granola Fruit Pizza”
- Melissa Mitri, MS, RD, a dietitian in Milford, Connecticut
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Wild Blueberry Peanut Butter Smoothie”
- Your Choice Nutrition: “Skillet Blackberry Bread Pudding”
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Brie Appetizer with Blueberries + 18 Healthy Entertaining Recipes”
- Jeanette Kimszal, RDN, nutrition blogger
- Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, author of 365 Snacks for Every Day of the Year
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Smoked Paprika Avocado Deviled Eggs Recipe”
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Healthy Avocado Smoothie with Grape Juice”
- Lettuce Veg Out: “Avocado Chocolate Pudding Recipe: Healthy Vegan Dessert”
- Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, nutrition blogger
- 360 Family Nutrition: “Quinoa Sliders with Dill Sauce on Cucumber ‘Bun’”
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Citrus Salad Recipe with Prunes and Honey-Orange Dressing”
- Jennifer Hunt: “Healthy Parmesan Chicken Quinoa Bake”
- Michele Fumagalli, RD, nutrition blogger
- Frontiers in Nutrition: “Enhancing Human Cognition with Cocoa Flavonoids”
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Chocolate Banana Nice Cream”
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Chocolate Almond Butter Protein Balls”
- Triad to Wellness: “Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles”
- Sarah Anzlovar, MA, RDN, a dietitian in Boston
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Egg-and-Veggie-Topped Hummus Toast with Everything Bagel Spice Mix”
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Italian Flatbread Breakfast Panini”
- Nourish: “Healthy Breakfast Tacos”
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Tropical Green Tea Sangria Mocktail”
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Ginger-Infused Matcha Green Tea Latte”
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “How to Use Matcha Powder to Make Healthy Green Muffins”
- Josten Fish, RD, nutrition blogger
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Vegan Mediterranean Vegetable Salad with Prunes and Fruit Dressing”
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Sweet Cheese Appetizer with Prune Jam”
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Gluten-Free Avocado Chocolate Brownies with Prunes and Walnuts”
- Emily Wunder, RD, a dietitian in Nutley, New Jersey
- Amy Gorin Nutrition: “Summer Vegan Power Bowl with Maple-Dijon Dressing”
- It’s a Veg World After All: “Quinoa Arugula Salad with Pineapple”
- Marisa Moore: “White Bean Arugula Salad Crostini”