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It’s true that a balanced diet is a cornerstone of health. But there are gender differences. From the heart to the blood, throughout the life cycle, women have special needs.
Look to foods containing healthy fats such as omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats.
Found in fish, flaxseeds, nuts, olive and canola oils and avocados, these fats improve blood cholesterol levels, which decrease the risk of heart disease, and they may help brain function.
Protein, along with regular strength building exercise, is essential for maintaining muscle, which we tend to lose as we age. Protein is also necessary for bone health. The average woman needs about 5 to 6 ounces of protein foods each day. Good sources include beef, chicken, pork, lamb, fish, eggs, beans, tofu and nuts, as well as milk, yogurt and cheese.
Iron is one of the keys to good health and energy levels in women. Iron-rich foods include red meat, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, kale, spinach, beans, lentils and fortified breads and cereals. Plant-based sources of iron are more easily absorbed by your body when eaten with vitamin C-rich foods. So eat fortified cereal with strawberries on top, spinach salad with mandarin oranges or add tomatoes to lentil soup.
Another important nutrient is fiber, which can help protect against heart disease and some types of cancer. Women need 25 grams per day, but most of us get only about half that amount. Fruits and veggies, whole grains, and beans are good sources of fiber.
Women of childbearing age need folic acid to decrease the risk of birth defects. For women who plan on becoming pregnant, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend 400 micrograms per day of folic acid. Folate is found in citrus fruits, leafy greens, beans and peas. Many breads, cereals and grain products are fortified with folic acid.
For healthy bones and teeth, women need calcium-rich foods every day. Calcium keeps bones strong and prevents osteoporosis, a bone disease in which the bones become weak and break easily. In your teens and 20’s you want to fill the bone bank because in later years your body will lose some of that bone, so the more you start with the better off you are. You need 1,000 -1200 mg calcium per day, so enjoy milk yogurt and cheese, opt for calcium-fortified orange juice and cereals, and load up on beans, leafy greens, calcium-set tofu, almonds and canned sardines and salmon with bones.
Vitamin D is used in every cell in the body. It’s essential for bone health and may reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease. The best food sources are fortified milk, orange juice, and cereals as well as fish such as salmon and tuna.
Make your foods work for you by choosing a variety of them. This recipe delivers a quick solution for dinner, heart healthy fats, protein and great taste.
Snapper with Tomato, Olives, and Capers
Other fish may be substituted such as cod, flounder, haddock, halibut, or tilapia.
1 1/2 pounds snapper
Juice from one lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley, for garnish
8 whole wheat tortillas, warmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
2 to 4 tablespoons sliced, pitted green olives
1 tablespoon chopped, seeded jalapeno pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 teaspoons drained capers
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 bay leaf
Preheat oven to 350.
Arrange the snapper in a 12 by 7 1/2-inch ovenproof baking dish.
Combine the lime juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil and black pepper in a small bowl. Brush the snapper with the lime juice mixture. Cover; marinate in the refrigerator for about 1 hour (no longer than 2 hours).
To make the sauce, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a medium nonstick skillet. Add the onion; cook and stir until the onion softens and begins to turn translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, olives, jalapeno pepper, garlic, capers, oregano, marjoram and bay leaf. Cover; simmer for about 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
To bake the snapper, pour the tomato mixture over the marinated snapper, lifting the filets to allow the sauce to flow underneath. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the fish becomes flaky. Baste with the sauce during the cooking time.
To serve, remove the bay leaf, and garnish with parsley. Serve with warmed tortillas.