Green foods, especially the “leafy greens”, contain nutrients we need to support female health. Many greens are termed superfoods because they are considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being as well as preventing disease. Most greens are also to be found year-round and are among some of the most versatile foods when preparing nutrient rich meals.
Overall adding greens to the diet can help protect women against many diseases including inflammation, mental health problems, heart disease, cancer and beyond. Here are 5 green superfoods that women should include often in their diet:
Broccoli is a good food for women because Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, Bok choy, cauliflower and brussels sprouts pack a serious punch against cancer. This family of greens contain sulforaphane a chemical that has been called a modern-day super compound. The potential benefits of sulforaphane include it being anti-inflammatory, DNA protective and it may even help to slow the growth of tumours.
A 2012 study by the Vanderbilt University Medical Centre found that women who had diets high in cruciferous vegetables showed reduced risks of breast cancer-related mortality, and lower rates of breast cancer recurrence. A further study in 2020 supported these findings showing that this chemical may have the potential to prevent the development of breast cancer as well as help reduce the risk of recurrence or metastasis (1).
Aloe vera is packed with antioxidants and vitamins as well as being antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. Aloe vera has even been researched for preventing fine lines, improving facial skin elasticity and helping the skin to retain moisture. A study in 2009 on 30 women aged over 45 years showed that after 90 days of application to the skin, participants had increased collagen production and significant improvements to wrinkles. Its nutrients may neutralise the effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and may help the skin retain moisture which could benefit dry skin conditions (2).
Green Tea Leaves may reduce stress and anxiety as well as help to build up tolerance to stress. Green tea contains two important plant chemicals called L-theanine and ECGC (Epigallocatechin-3-gallate). L-theanine is found in high amounts in green tea and has been proven in research to calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety, mainly through decreasing the human bodies main stress hormone called cortisol. L-theanine also boosts levels of dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical messenger in brain cells which promotes feelings of pleasure, increases motivation, and also keeps us focused.
A 2016 study had participants drink an L-theanine containing drink prior to performing a cognitive stress test. The participants reported significantly reduced feelings of stress after the test, as well as lower cortisol levels, measured 3 hours afterwards. An additional study in 2013 found that when pharmacy students were given L-theanine the supplement made the students more resilient to stress (3, 4).
The second potent stress reducing chemical in green tea is EGCG which has been found to have a potent ability to leave cortisol inactive. This helps to
reduce stress hormones and is why ECGC can have a beneficially calming effect on green tea drinkers (3, 4).
Alfalfa may relieve menopausal symptoms because it is high in plant compounds that are called phytoestrogens. These are plant compounds that are similar to the hormone oestrogen and also have similar effects to oestrogen. Phytoestrogens can ease the symptoms of menopause when symptoms are caused by reduced levels of oestrogen.
Studies are in their infancy but researchers used sage and alfalfa extract successfully in a group of 30 post-menopausal women. Hot flushes and night sweating completely disappeared in 20 of the women, four women had notable improvements and the remaining six women showed reduced symptoms (5). Alfalfa also boasts a high level of antioxidants and has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels in both human and animal studies.
Globe Artichoke may significantly improve digestive health. One medium artichoke contains up to 7 grams of fibre, which is a whopping 23–28% of the recommended daily intake. Good levels of daily fibre help to keep the digestive system healthy by encouraging the growth of friendly gut bacteria. Fibre also reduces the risk of bowel cancer, and alleviates constipation and diarrhoea (6, 7).
A special type of fibre is found in globe artichoke that acts as a prebiotic called inulin. In one study, 12 adults experienced an improvement in gut bacteria when they consumed an artichoke extract containing inulin each day for three weeks (8, 9).
Relief from the symptoms of indigestion, bloating, heartburn and nausea may also be relieved from artichoke extract. A 2003 study consisting of 247 participants who suffered from indigestion found that when consuming artichoke leaf extract daily for six weeks, uncomfortable symptoms reduced, including flatulence and bloating (10).
Activated Nutrients all in one womens superfood powder “Top Up To Thrive and Shine” contains essential vitamins from certified organic wholefoods, including the super green foods broccoli, green tea leaves, aloe vera, alfalfa and globe artichoke as well as pre and probiotics.
1. Kim, Jae Kwang, and Sang Un Park, (2016). “Current potential health benefits of sulforaphane.” EXCLI journal vol. 15 571-577.
2. Cho, Soyun et al. “Dietary Aloe Vera Supplementation Improves Facial Wrinkles and Elasticity and It Increases the Type I Procollagen Gene Expression in Human Skin in vivo.” Annals of dermatology vol. 21,1 (2009): 6-11. doi:10.5021/ad.2009.21.1.6
3. White, David J et al, (2016). “Anti-Stress, Behavioural and Magnetoencephalography Effects of an L-Theanine-Based Nutrient Drink: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial.” Nutrients;8,1 53.
4. Unno K, Tanida N, Ishii N, Yamamoto H, Iguchi K, Hoshino M, Takeda A, Ozawa H, Ohkubo T, Juneja LR, Yamada H, (2013). Anti-stress effect of theanine on students during pharmacy practice: positive correlation among salivary α-amylase activity, trait anxiety and subjective stress. Pharmacol Biochem Behav;111:128-35.
5. De Leo V, Lanzetta D, Cazzavacca R, Morgante G, (1998). Trattamento dei disturbi neurovegetativi della donna in menopausa con un preparato fitoterapico [Treatment of neurovegetative menopausal symptoms with a phytotherapeutic agent]. Minerva Ginecol;50(5):207-11
6. M. Lutz, C. Henríquez, M. Escobar, (2011). Chemical composition and antioxidant properties of mature and baby artichokes (Cynara scolymus L.), raw and cooked, Journ Food Comp and Anal; 24:1;49-54.
7. Macfarlane S, Macfarlane GT, Cummings JH, (2006). Review article: prebiotics in the gastrointestinal tract. Aliment Pharmacol Ther;24(5):701-14.
9. Ramirez-Farias C, Slezak K, Fuller Z, Duncan A, Holtrop G, Louis P, (2009). Effect of inulin on the human gut microbiota: stimulation of Bifidobacterium adolescentis and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii. Br J Nutr;101(4):541-50.
10. Holtmann G, Adam B, Haag S, Collet W, Grünewald E, Windeck T, (2003). Efficacy of artichoke leaf extract in the treatment of patients with functional dyspepsia: a six-week placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicentre trial. Aliment Pharmacol Ther;18(11-12):1099-105.