This article appeared in the Spring 2008 issue of Texoma Living!.
by Krista Lowrey
We’ve learned since grade school that our bodies have nutritional needs that we should try to meet every day: 2-4 servings of fruits, 3-5 servings of vegetables, 2-3 servings of dairy, etc. But what we may not have learned is that there are nutritional needs very specific to our genders. Men’s and women’s bodies are inherently different. Women are more prone to certain deficiencies and disorders because of their physiology; the same goes for men. Considering that, there are some foods that, while healthful for both genders, are especially more beneficial to one sex over the other. These are often referred to as “superfoods.”
Superfoods For Women
Oranges are the number one source for vitamin C, which is the most important water-soluble antioxidant in the body. Blake Burleson at Anytime Fitness in Sherman, explained that antioxidants are nutrients that help to repair the harm caused by free radicals, or damaged cells that result when our bodies transform fatty food into energy. “It’s not just foods high in saturated fats that cause these free radicals. Stress, smoking and even working out releases free radicals,” Burleson said.
The buildup of these free radicals over time is largely responsible for the aging process and can contribute to the development of various health conditions. Antioxidants such as those found in oranges are associated with lowering risks for a number of diseases, from heart disease and cancer to cataracts and premature aging of the skin.
One study found breast cancer risk decreased 84% when vitamin C intake was high. Oranges also are an excellent source of folate, the B vitamin that helps lower risk for birth defects, heart disease, cancer and even memory loss.
Vitamin D Fortified Low-Fat Milk
The main function of vitamin D is to promote our bodies’ vital absorption of calcium. Some scientists suspect that increased use of sunscreen over the past years has resulted in a vitamin D deficiency in many women. Sunscreen, while preventing penetration of harmful UV rays, also shields the skin from a benefit of the sun—vitamin D.
Vitamin D is found in salmon, shrimp, mackerel, tuna and sardines but some experts say fortified foods such as milk are the best source. It is fundamental for reducing the risk of osteoporosis, a skeletal disorder common in post-menopausal women. Recent studies from the University of California San Diego suggest that vitamin D has the potential to prevent up to one–half of all breast, colon and ovarian cancer in the United States.
Cranberries are best known for their ability to combat urinary tract infections. Cranberries produce hippuric acid in the urine, which acidifies the urine and prevents bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder and urinary tract. Additionally, cranberries are high in vitamin C, fiber and are packed with beneficial antioxidants and other phytonutrients that may help protect against various cancers and other diseases.
This one may surprise you, ladies. Not only are legumes a good, low-fat source of protein and fiber, they are also a source of plant estrogens which play a part in stabilizing the female hormones and mitigating the symptoms of menopause. Plant estrogens—best found in split peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans, lima beans and in soy-based foods like tofu and miso—produce a mild estrogenic effect which offers support for normal libido and feminine dryness. Burleson urges women to keep in mind, though, that a woman who already has a hormone imbalance probably won’t control that imbalance with the consumption of beans alone. “Consuming beans would be more of a preventative measure.”
Superfoods For Men
It may not be a myth that oysters are the food for love. The male reproductive system needs a healthy dose of zinc to function properly. Without it, prostate abnormalities may occur. Just two to three oysters deliver a full day’s supply of zinc. Not only may oysters help protect against prostate cancer, studies have shown that regular and adequate intake of zinc also enhances men’s sexual functions including increased sperm count. If oysters don’t tempt your palate, Burleson suggests beef tenderloin, venison, mushrooms or spinach for your zinc source.
Broccoli, a cruciferous vegetable, is loaded with vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium and a phytochemical that has strong anticancer properties. Studies consistently show that diets high in cruciferous vegetables are associated with lower occurrences of certain cancers including bladder cancer, a cancer that affects three times more men than women. A newer study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that broccoli may be men’s superfood for protecting against high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
Not only are bananas a great source of quick energy, bananas are one of our best sources of potassium, an essential mineral for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function. As a super source of vitamin B-6, bananas can also aid your immune system, help form red blood cells, ensure a well-functioning nervous system and assist protein metabolism— especially right after a workout.
Starting with the basics, tomatoes contain vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and iron. But the superfood quality found in tomatoes is also responsible for it’s ruby red color: lycopene. Lycopene acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that can damage cells in the body. A Harvard research study discovered that men who consumed 10 servings of tomatoes a week, or the equivalent to 10 slices of pizza, can cut the risk of developing prostrate cancer by a impressive 45 percent. But why pizza? Cooked tomatoes enhance the absorption of lycopene into your system. But Burleson stresses, “This is not your permission to eat ten slices of pizza per week. When you take into consideration the high caloric and saturated fat content found in the pizza toppings there are wiser choices to make to fulfill these ten servings.” He suggests spaghetti with tomato sauce, salsa, ketchup or other dishes with tomato paste as alternatives.
Krista Lowrey is Associate Publisher at Texoma Living! She has spent most of her career in the advertising industry. While raising two young sons with her husband, Clay, she manages to keep her food supply mostly healthy.
Blake Burleson – Anytime Fitness
2916 Hwy 75 N Suite 500
Sherman, TX 75090
Teresa Hall – Nautilus Fitness
1715 Texoma Pkwy
Sherman, TX 75090
Disclaimer: The information included in this article is meant to inform only. Always consult your physician before starting any diet or exercise program.