Healthy, 'Well'thy and Wise Foods for Women

There are many nutritious guardians besides calcium and vitamin D available for women's health issues. The right foods and ingredients can enhance fitness and curb menopausal issues as well as fight everything from diabetes, cancer and birth defects to heart disease and stroke.

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

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Nessta Life (www.nesstalife.com), Burbank, Calif., creates customized free-from nutrition bars, cookies and shake/meal replacement products especially for women under the Eat Like a Woman brand. Suitable as a meal or snack, its Life Stage dairy-based shake mixes contain antioxidants, omega-3s and GanadenBC30 probiotic, and are designed to boost metabolism, curb hunger and cravings and support digestive and immune health and protein utilization.

"Our shake line has 22 vitamins and minerals needed for each life stage of womanhood (reproductive years, pregnancy/lactation and menopause and beyond), says Staness Jonekos, founder and CEO of Nessta Life. "From heart and bone health to the brain/gut connection and how women absorb nutrients are all very different than men," she adds. "Women have very different digestive needs because many are prone to bloating, so we incorporated the probiotic. More women than men suffer from autoimmune diseases, and BC30 was included to help regulate the protective cytokines, which help fight inflammation. Our Eat Like a Woman line is committed to bringing awareness to women’s health by providing delicious, plant-based nutritional solutions inspired by the latest research."

Matcha's mucho functionality

Many women look to green tea as an aid to weight loss and for a caffeine kick to keep alert and improve reaction time and memory. Green tea is also rich in antioxidants, nutrients and polyphenols like flavonoids and catechins, which studies have shown can increase the body’s rate of burning calories and fat during exercise.

Popular matcha and matcha powders are packed with wellness antioxidants that aren't found in other foods. Matcha green tea has high concentrations of the polyphenol catechin EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), said to have medicinal properties to treat various diseases. It has been shown in some studies to increase the rate of burning stored fat as energy and have calming effects from L-Theanine, an amino acid that balances the caffeine and calms without drowsiness.

Infusing matcha ingredients into its snack bars, Pamela's Products (www.pamelasproducts.com), Ukiah, Calif., launched Ambition Bars snack bars in five grain-free, vegan, gluten-free formulations that combine chocolate, almonds, almond butter, almond meal, salted caramel and coconut flour with the caffeine of matcha, espresso, chai and cold-brew coffee.

LunaBarLuna Bars from Clif Bar Co. (www.clifbar.com), Emeryville, Calif., which are marketed directly to women, also feature ingredients such as green tea extract along with plenty of protein (8g), as well as oats, nuts, granola and seeds. The bars "were created to assist women to obtain more of the nutrients lacking in their current diets," the company says. They're fortified with folic acid, soy protein and calcium − essential nutrients for a woman's daily nutritional needs.

ADM developed a new functional green tea extract as an antioxidant blend of tea, fruit and veggies in powder form, which delivers a concentrated dose of phytonutrients. The extracts can be added to mainstream products to improve their nutritional profile and deliver antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Folate and soy

Folate or folic acid is also linked with women’s health. A water-soluble B vitamin, it's critical for pregnant women and those who want to become pregnant because it protects against neural tube birth defects. A folate deficiency also can lead to anemia in adults and slower development in children. Folic acid is currently used to fortify various breads, pastas and cereals. It's also found naturally in leafy green vegetables, lentils, oranges, beans and peas. Herbs and chili powder also contain a bit, but beets have 37 percent of the daily value for folate.

A recent study showed women who consume more folic acid had a significantly reduced risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension). It's also important for cutting breast cancer risk and regulates calcium, another heart benefit. Folate also incorporates isoflavones, naturally occurring chemical compounds that have several possible health benefits, such as improved heart health.

A British study indicates that a vegan diet reduces the risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Vegan diets also go far in preventing strokes and hypertension, says Harvard research. More specifically, those who averaged eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day were 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to those who had less than 1.5 daily servings. Weight loss is a bonus.

Soy has been the subject of some debate lately. Some studies laud the positive effects of its isoflavones, others connect isoflavones to increases in estrogen in women, which can lead to breast cancer. Studies show it demonstrates positive effects for many women during perimenopause and menopause. Soy is considered the only complete non-animal protein, a plant source of eight of the essential amino acids.

Emerging research suggests links between isoflavones and strengthening healthy bones. The studies indicate they promote cardiovascular health by maintaining arterial elasticity and contribute to reducing the frequency of hot flashes. The structure of soy isoflavones is similar to the structure of the osteoporosis drug ipriflavone, a synthetic isoflavone.

Soy isoflavones may help improve cardiovascular health in those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a study determined last year. The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, indicate women with PCOS consuming soy isoflavones over three months decreased circulating levels of insulin and oxidative stress markers.

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