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    Archive for the ‘All-Star of the Day’ Category

    All-Star of the Day: Mushrooms

    The term “fungus” does not necessarily make one think of nutrition and wellness, but a healthy eater knows not to judge food by its name.

    A four-ounce portabella cap provides 42 calories along with 3 grams of fiber, 31% of our daily selenium needs, and 18% of the potassium and phosphorus we should be getting each day.

    Selenium is one mineral — and antioxidant — you want to make sure your body is getting, since it works alongside vitamin E to cut down on cell damage caused by free radicals.

    If you prefer shiitake mushrooms, consider that one cup of these cooked veggies contains a mere 81 calories and also provides 3 grams of fiber, 13% of our recommended daily intake of zinc, and half a day’s worth of selenium.

    So, don’t fear fungus. Add it to salads, stir fries, or even as a topping on a whole-food-based vegetarian burger (add some pesto, grilled onions and grilled peppers, too — you’ll thank me later.)


    All-Star of the Day: Goji Berry

    After hundreds of years as a Tibetan superstar, the goji berry is being rediscovered on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

    Tasting like the lovechild of a raisin and a dried cranberry, the Tibetan goji berry – a member of the same plant as tomatoes and potatoes — boasts a wealth of antioxidants and nutrients.

    For instance, a quarter cup of this wonder fruit provides:

    90 calories

    4 grams of fiber

    4 grams of protein

    180% Vitamin A

    30% Vitamin C

    9% calcium

    15% iron


    Make sure you buy shade-dried goji berries. The sun-dried variety, while still healthy, offers a lower amount of nutrients.

    Apart from containing several carotenoids (the same antioxidants found in carrots and winter squash), recent studies in Japan concluded that goji berries contain antioxidants that help inhibit the division of cancer cells.

    Additionally, a 1994 study published in the Chinese Journal of Oncology found that the addition of goji berries to the diet of cancer patients was linked to better response to treatment.

    As healthy as these berries are, some goji berry extract manufacturers are overzealous in their advertising and claim consumption of this fruit is basically the equivalent to drinking a liter of water from the fountain of youth. Proponents also claim goji berries cure a variety of illnesses, which is plain old false advertising.

    Remember that eating the actual food delivers more benefits than an extract. Since supplements are not regulated, they could potentially not contain any of what is advertised on the label.

    It is also worth nothing that as healthy as goji berries are, their benefits are best seen in diets already rich in whole, natural foods. Munching on a quarter cup of goji berries a day and then eating pizza, ice cream, potato chips, and soda will pretty much cancel their effect.


    All-Star of the Day: Artichokes

    Artichokes might look funny, but they certainly have a good heart!

    In fact, just half a cup of their hearts provides 5 grams of fiber, 14% of our Vitamin C requirements, 11% of our folate needs, 16% of our recommended Vitamin K intake, and 13% of our magnesium requirements – all in a measly 42-calorie package.

    And that’s just the beginning! As many of you now know, the power of vegetables lies in their antioxidants – and artichokes certainly deliver.

    One especially promising antioxidant they contain is silymarin. Among other things, it has been found to maintain liver health and, as published in a 2001 study by Case Western Reserve University’s Department of Dermatology, helps lower our risk of developing a variety of skin cancers.

    Meanwhile, another antioxidant found in artichokes known as cynarin helps curb bad and total cholesterol levels while also supporting liver healthy by aiding in the regeneration of healthy tissue.

    I highly recommend steaming them (to prevent the loss of the B vitamins and vitamin C) and then add to a frittata or stir-fry.


    All-Star of the Day: Subway (!)

    Earlier this afternoon, I experienced hunger in the enemy’s territory – a shopping mall food court!

    Although Coldstone beckoned me with the tempting aroma of freshly baked sweets, I remembered that a small serving of cake batter ice cream with an added brownie mix-in added up to 527 calories, 68% of my daily saturated fat limit, and 12 and a half teaspoons of added sugar.

    I had a good workout earlier in the morning, and there was no way I was going to sabotage 60 minutes of hard work.

    McDonald’s? In the (wise?) words of Whitney Houston – “hell to the no!”

    My eyes then wandered to Subway’s yellow and green sign. Although I have never been a big fan of theirs (having had their sandwiches only once before), I recalled hearing about a new company initiative to offer healthy sides and options.

    A sandwich was out of the question since I am vegetarian and find their cheese and vegetable sandwiches rather tasteless (and too high in sodium).

    Upon walking in, a quick glance at the menu made me smile. I decided to order three sides: a small bag of sliced apples, a small box of raisins, and a 12 ounce bottle of 1% milk.

    In other words, I was able to go to a fast-food chain and nourish myself with:

    365 calories
    3.5 grams fat (for my caloric intake, I should get approximately 80 grams)

    2.5 grams saturated fat (everyone’s limit is set to 20 grams per day)
    4 grams fiber
    240 mg sodium (a mere 10% of the maximum allotment)
    18 grams protein

    Kudos to Subway for offering truly healthy choices. Hopefully, other food court staples will follow suit.


    All-Star of the Day: Corn

    When cooked properly, corn is a nutrition all-star offering a wealth of nutrients.

    A cup of cooked corn (or one large ear, in barbecue terms) provides 4 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, 20 percent of the daily requirement for folate, as much potassium as a medium banana, and 15 percent of our phosphorus and magnesium needs.

    The combination of folate, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium make corn a great defender against heart disease and high blood pressure.

    Research by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that once law required folate be added to bread products, deaths caused by heart attacks dropped significantly.

    Obviously, folate is abundant naturally in fruits and vegetables, and corn is one heart-healthy friend.

    Even better, recent research suggests a link between meeting one’s daily folate needs and decreasing risk of colon cancer by as much as 20 percent!

    What many people fail to realize is that corn is a whole grain, meaning it provides many of the same health benefits attributed to oatmeal, buckwheat, quinoa, and whole wheat products.

    Among these – a healthy dose of magnesium, a crucial mineral for bone growth and maintenance.

    Phosphorus, meanwhile, is the behind-the-scenes player helping our kidneys get rid of waste and is also necessary to keep our nervous system in check and running.

    Additionally, research shows whole grains help stabilize blood sugar levels!

    Potassium-rich foods such as corn also help counter the dangerous effects of too much sodium on our blood pressure.

    The healthiest way to eat corn is grilled or popped. Yes, popcorn (especially in an air popper) is an immensely healthy snack. Hold the butter and spice it up with some salt-free chili powder or cinnamon for a low-fat, fiber-rich afternoon treat.


    All-Star of the Day: Peanuts

    Although almonds often take the “super nut” title, the peanut also needs to be recognized for its tremendous health benefits.

    Peanuts are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, the same ones that make olive oil and salmon such powerfoods. Remember, diet high in monounsaturated fats and low in saturated fats has been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 20 percent. “Low-fat” is not the answer; “smart fat” is!

    An ounce of peanuts contains 164 calories, 7 grams of protein, 10 percent of our daily folate recommendation, 29 percent of our managenese needs, and 19 percent of our suggested niacin (vitamin B-3) intake.

    Although those figures themselves might not be groundbreaking, peanuts’ antioxidant level is extremely high, rivaling that of many fruits.

    In fact, resveratrol (the antioxidant found in grapes — and, thus, red wine — that boasts tremendous heart-healthy properties) is found in significant quantities in peanuts!

    A plant compound known as beta-sitosterol also exists naturally in peanuts, and recent research links it to reductions in rates of breast and prostate cancer.

    A 10-year study in Taiwan involving over 20,000 subjects (published in the January 2006 issue of the World Journal of Gastroenterology) found that the average participant who ate an ounce of peanuts twice a week lowered their risk of colon cancer by 34 percent!

    Additionally, studies at Pennsylvania State University’s nutrition department found that regular consumption of foods high in monounsaturated fats — such as peanuts — lowered triglycerides while keeping heart-healty HDL cholesterol stable, whereas a low-fat diet LOWERED HDL levels.

    Yes, peanuts are high in fat (one ounce provides 14 grams of fat), but this has proven to be a positive attribute.

    Studies at Harvard, Penn State, and even countries like Israel and Papua New Guinea all came to the same conclusion. When subjects were allowed to eat an ounce of peanuts as a snack twice a day, they reported feeling fuller and therefore eating less total calories a day!

    So, yes, you can most certainly enjoy peanut butter as a grown adult. However, be sure to buy “natural” peanut butter (Smuckers is my favorite). The ingredients? Just two – peanuts and salt.

    Most conventional peanut butter adds “partially hydrogenated oils” (the always evil trans-fats) and added sugars, which turn this all-star into a fallen celestial body.


    All-Star of the Day: Cinnamon

    Although we often look to actual food for nutrition, don’t forget about spices – especially cinnamon!

    Ready for a surprise? Just one tablespoon of cinnamon (18 calories’ worth) adds 4 grams of fiber to your day (as much as a large apple), along with 56% of our daily manganese needs, 8% of the calcium we should be getting each day, and 13% of our recommended daily value of iron!

    (By the way, I wouldn’t recommend downing a tablespoon of cinnamon in one gulp, but rather sprinkling a teaspoon over two or three of the things you eat throughout the day).

    Isn’t that incredible? There are even more surprising health properties to this delicious condiment.

    Cinnamaldehyde – the compound responsible for the unmistakable taste of cinnamon – contains anti-inflammatory properties (great news for anyone with rheumatoid arthritis as well as when it comes to lowering the risk of developing blood clots).

    If you’re looking for a gastrointestinal champ, add cinnamon to some plain yogurt – the healthy bacteria in your colon will absolutely love it. Recent research suggests cinnamon is one of the best foods (not just spices, but foods) that help in the decrease of harmful intestinal bacteria and fungi.

    A 2003 study conducted in Pakistan by the United States Department of Agriculture (published in the December 2003 issues of Diabetes Care) even saw a noticeable decrease in total cholesterol and triglyceride levels of subjects who just had half a teaspoon of cinnamon every day! Specifically, subjects lowered total cholesterol by as much as 26 percent, and LDL cholesterol by anywhere from 7 to 27 percent!

    When consumed in high amounts, cinnamon can be toxic, so don’t begin to measure out cinnamon in cups. Just one teaspoon a day is enough to see certain benefits.


    All-Star of the Day: Almonds

    Yet another victim of the fat-phobic 90s, almonds are finally getting the respect they deserve.

    And why shouldn’t they? One ounce of almonds (about 23 pieces) amount to 163 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, and 37 percent of our vitamin E, 19 percent of our magnesium, and 36 percent of our manganese daily requirements.

    Magnesium might not be as popular as iron or calcium, but it is an extremely important mineral to have in our diets. Without it, our veins resist bloodflow, increasing our risk of high blood pressure and blood clot formation.

    Those 6 grams of protein are very special. Arginine, a protein found in almonds, has been shown to make our arteries more elastic, therefore reducing the risk of plaque buildup on their walls.

    That alone make almonds a wonderful food for cardiovascular health. But they wouldn’t be all-stars unless they offered even more benefits.

    Take this. Research by the American Heart Association concluded that eating just one ounce of almonds every day for 30 days lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol by 4 and a half percent!

    “But almonds are fatty,” I have a feeling some of you are thinking.

    Let’s put this to rest once and for all. Eating a handful of nuts every day does NOT make you fat. There’s plenty of research to back this up.

    The people in the study I just mentioned were eating 23 almonds every day for a month and they didn’t gain an ounce of weight.

    How can that be? A team of scientists at Purdue University found that people who consumed almonds on a daily basis reduced calories from other food sources. For example, if they had almonds in their salad, they didn’t eat bread or ask for dessert; if they had almonds as an afternoon snack, they weren’t craving candy or Doritos at 4 o’clock.

    Over at London’s King College, another interesting hypothesis has emerged. Researchers believe the fiber makeup of almonds alone may reduce the amount of fat (and calories) we absorb from these delicious nuts!

    As if that wasn’t enough, a Harvard study found that participants who added an ounce of almonds a day to an otherwise low-fat eating plan lost the same amount of weight as those who didn’t.

    Here is the really surprising part. Six months later, the almonds eaters kept the weight off, while those who continued their diet low in fat and calories had GAINED some of the weight back!

    So, please, have a handful of raw almonds and ENJOY THEM!

    There’s more. Almonds are worth having in our anti-diabetes arsenal. When consumed with a meal, almonds helped lower blood sugar levels after eating.

    Meanwhile, a 20-year long dietary analysis conducted by the Nurses’ Health Study demonstrated that, once again, just 1 ounce of almonds a day lowers the risk of developing gallstones by as much as 25 percent.

    To get the most out of these nutrition A-listers, be sure to buy the raw kind and store them in the fridge once opened to slow down their spoilage. Munch away!


    All-Star of the Day: Asparagus

    They might look scrawny, but these green spears pack quite the nutrition punch.

    A cup of asparagus contains only 33 calories, but all these added benefits: 70% of our vitamin K needs, 17% of our daily folate requirements, 13% of the vitamin C we should get each day, 20% of our recommended vitamin A intake, 16% of our iron requirements, and 3 grams of fiber.

    Among other things, folate helps lower our risk of developing atherosclerosis (the clogging of arteries with hard plaque). Pregnant women should especially take note, since folate is THE mineral responsible for preventing neural tube defects (which affect a baby’s back and brain).

    The tricky part is that adequate amounts of folate are needed during the first trimester, when the neural tube is forming (before many women even know they are pregnant). Therefore, if you are thinking of conceiving, be sure to get plenty of folate (legumes, including chickpeas,lentil, and black beans are excellent sources).

    Asparagus contain a type of insoluble fiber known as inulin. Because it is insoluble, inulin passes through our digestive system (and helps flush out anything that might be hanging around there), but the friendly bacteria in our gut absolutely love it, since it helps produce more of their immunity-boosting buddies (including some found in yogurt with live cultures!).

    Asparagus also contains an amino acid known as glutathione, which among other processes, helps with liver detoxification.

    Even better, clinical research trials have linked it to a decrease in damaged DNA (which is linked to a higher risk of developing many types of cancers).

    A bioflavonoid known as rutin is also abundant in asparagus. Its attributes? Help absorb vitamin C, and make our arteries more elastic, so blood can flow more easily. It has also been linked to a decrease in total cholesterol.

    Oh, yes, as for that pungent smell it leaves in your urine. Nothing to worry about. Asparagus contains a sulfur compound known as marcaptan (the same compound responsible for “skunk smell”). Some of us have an enzyme that breaks down marcaptan, resulting in “that smell”. It basically comes down to roll of the genetic dice; having the enzyme — or not — does not affect your absorption of nutrients.

    Next time you’re looking for a green veggie to accompany your dinner, allow lettuce to rest for the night and make room for asparagus on your plate.


    All-Star of the Day: Oatmeal

    Oatmeal is one of my whole grain staples. Not only is it a source of excellent nutrition; it’s also a great snack no matter what time of day.

    One cup of oatmeal delivers 147 calories along with 4 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein (yes, whole grains have protein) and a virtually non-existent 2 milligrams of sodium. It also doesn’t hurt that it provides 65 percent of our manganese and 25 percent of our selenium needs.

    Although manganese always takes the backseat, many people don’t know that, without it, Vitamin C is unable to do its immunity-boosting work. Selenium, meanwhile, is crucial in helping repair damaged DNA (remember, damaged DNA is linked to the onset of several cancers).

    I particularly love oatmeal because it is 100% soluble fiber (the type that helps us feel full and lower cholesterol). Remember, whole-wheat is 100% insoluble fiber (which helps speed up the excretion of waste) while fruits and vegetables are a pretty even mix of both types.

    If high cholesterol is a problem for you, I couldn’t recommend oatmeal enough. Hundreds of studies have consistently shown that consistent intake of oatmeal lowers cholesterol. In fact, one cup of oatmeal a day decreases cholesterol by approximately 15 percent – that translates to a 30% lower risk of developing heart disease!

    That’s not all. Oatmeal contains a fiber known as beta-glucan, which helps our immune system by super-charging it and helping it shoo bacteria away at a faster rate.

    The best way to eat oatmeal is plain; flavored instant oatmeal packets add unnecessary sugar and calories. If you choose to have hot oatmeal, I recommend making plain, unflavored oatmeal and then adding raisins and some sliced almonds (as well as a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg) for an extra kick.

    My favorite thing to do, whether it’s first thing in the morning or before going to bed, is to add uncooked instant oatmeal to a bowl of plain yogurt (with live cultures) along with flaxseed meal, banana slices, strawberries, and blueberries (or any fruits of your choosing). I dare you to try it and not be hooked!

    Forget sugary cereals and chemical-tasting “breakfast bars” — tune in to Mother Nature and say “good morning” to oatmeal.


    All-Star of the Day: Kiwi

    This little fuzzy guy from the Far East (kiwis are native to China) is quite the nutrition master.

    Kiwi is, hands down, one of the best sources of Vitamin C. One cup of the egg-shaped citrus fruit packs 5 grams of fiber, 273% of our vitamin C needs, 13% of our daily vitamin E recommended intake, and 16% of the hypertension-preventing potassium we should get each day into just 108 calories!

    The high antioxidant activity in kiwi has also shown a lot of promise.

    A 2004 study at Norway’s University of Oslo published in the August 2004 issue of peer-reviewed journal Platelets concluded that after eating two to three kiwi fruits a day, test subjects lowered their risk of forming blood clots by approximately 20 percent. How? Certain phytonutrients (plant chemicals) in kiwi make blood platelets less sticky, therefore making it harder for them to lump together in the walls of our arteries. Sweet!

    This same study also found that these same subjects reduced their triglycerides (a type of blood fat associated with an increase in heart disease risk) level by 15 percent.

    It gets better! A study at Great Britain’s Rowett Research Institute demonstrated that just eating one kiwi a day helped damaged DNA – which has the potential to increase our risk of developing many cancers – repair itself! This is huge. Many foods are able to help decrease the risk of DNA damage, but certain antioxidants in kiwi are able to undo the damage to some extent.

    A word of warning – be cautious when feeding kiwi to infants and young children. A study at England’s Southampton University’s Allergy and Inflammation Services unit published in the July 2004 edition of Clinical and Experimental Allergy found that kiwi resulted in a higher percentage of allergy symptoms in young children than other fruits.

    The study isn’t considered complete since researchers have yet to find out what properties in this fruit result in its apparent higher allergen position, but it’s worth keeping in mind for now.

    Next time you’re making a fruit salad, be sure to include your new furry friend!


    All-Star of the Day: Shrimp

    Although small in size, shrimp are one of nutrition’s biggest kahunas.

    Like eggs, they spent some time on the “Do Not Eat” list in the fat-phobic 90’s due to their high cholesterol. But, as you faithful readers now know, dietary cholesterol doesn’t have much of an effect on our blood cholesterol.

    And, considering all the health benefits shrimp provide, it would be a shame to put a dunce cap on them and make them face the corner.

    For one thing, shrimp contain omega-3 fats – the anti-inflammatory kind that help prevent blood clots, lower bad cholesterol, and have been linked with lower risks of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

    Despite their high nutrient volume, shrimp are low when it comes to calories. Three ounces (considered to be one serving) provide 84 calories, just .8 grams of fat, 17.8 grams of protein as well as 15% of our iron and 48% of our daily selenium requirements!

    Although obscure in the mainstream press, selenium is a crucial mineral with antioxidant properties. Many clinical research trials show a promising link between it and the repair of damaged cells in our bodies as well as a significant reduction in the multiplying of already existing cancerous cells.

    It’s also smart to be aware of good sources of iron, especially considering that 12% of women aged 12 to 49 in the United States are living with iron-deficiency anemia.

    It goes without saying that in order to reap all these benefits, shrimp should be grilled or sauteed. Three ounces of popcorn shrimp clock in at 281 calories, 16.2 grams of fat, and 586 milligrams of sodium (as opposed to 190 for plain grilled shrimp).


    All-Star of the Day: Sweet Potatoes

    The potato’s more exotic counterpart has taken a backseat for a while, but after knowing its secrets, I’m sure you’ll agree it deserves the spotlight.

    Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, two antioxidants that help prevent cells from damage that often leads to cancers and other mutations. Vitamin C also has anti-inflammatory properties, making it particularly helpful in decreasing risks of arthritis and cardiovascular disease.

    Vitamin A is particularly helpful in maintaining our respiratory system in order. The latest research indicates that the cells lining the lungs of people with low intakes of vitamin A lose the ability to battle disease-causing microorganisms.

    Smokers – pay special attention! A chemical in cigarettes known as benzapyrene has been linked to vitamin A deficiency, thus leaving lungs and bronchii especially vulnerable. Although everyone needs vitamin A, smokers in particular need to monitor their intake.

    A medium sweet potato only packs 100 calories, but provides 438% of our vitamin A and 37% of our vitamin C needs and, when eaten with its skin, 5 grams of fiber (15% of the recommended daily amount). And, by contributing 18% of the daily potassium we need and practically no sodium, it is definitely a vegetable to have in your “anti-hypertension” arsenal.

    To clarify some confusion, the terms “yam” and “sweet potato” are (incorrectly) interchanged. Many grocery stores refer to sweet potatoes as yams. A real yam looks has a rough exterior and, insider, is white and very starchy.

    Baked sweet potatoes with a little olive oil and salt (or cinnamon if you want to bring out its sweetness) are quick, delicious snacks.

    For a sinless treat, cut a sweet potato into thin wedges, drizzle with olive oil, flavor with salt and pepper, toss on a cookie sheet and heat in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.

    Prepare to taste just how sweet healthy eating can get!


    All-Star of the Day: Tea

    Nutrition isn’t just about food. Beverages, such as tea, can play an important role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

    Not only does tea — whether green, white, black, or red (also known as oolong) — have as much as 1000 (yes, one thousand) percent more antioxidants than many fruits and vegetables, it also gives our bodies a huge detoxifying boost.

    White tea is the least processed, since its leaves only undergo air-drying. Green tea leaves are steamed and dried, while black and red tea ones undergo a fermentation process. Although a few healthy compounds are lost during processing, all teas are nutritional champs in their purest form (i.e.: brewed as opposed to a Snapple drink, which is basically sugar and water with a little tea thrown in).

    All teas have high amounts of natural plants antioxidants known as polyphenols and cachetins, which look for cell-damaging free radicals and prevent them from doing further damage, thereby helping decrease our risk of cancers and blood clots.

    There’s more! Numerous studies have shown that having 2 cups of tea a day can help lower total and bad cholesterol and slow the growth of tumors.

    A little Nutrition 101: bad cholesterol (LDL) is especially dangerous when it oxidizes as a result of exposure to free radicals and becomes particularly sticky (not a good quality in something that deposits in our arteries). Luckily, antioxidants, as their name suggest, prevent oxidizing and make it harder for bad cholesterol to reside in our arteries as hard plaque.

    Tea also has antioxidants known as flavonoids, which, research suggests, may help prevent blood clots.

    A 2004 study by the UCLA Department of Urology found that green tea extract in particular slowed down the multiplication of bladder cancer cells.

    Great news for women — a December 2005 study by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden concluded that two cups of tea a day decreased a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 46 percent.

    Bagged teas have the highest amount of antioxidants, and to ensure these compounds end up in your, dunk the bag several times while the tea steeps for at least 3 minutes.

    Don’t think you have to drink tea by itself to get benefits. One common myth perpetrated by tea purists is that the addition of milk cancels out much of its health benefits, which is entirely

    Tea does bind with iron, so it’s recommended you consume tea between meals rather than with them to make sure you are fully absorbing the iron in your food. If you insist on tea to accompany your meals, I recommend adding some lemon to it, since vitamin C aids with iron absorption.

    It is worth noting that these wonderful health properties do NOT apply to herbal teas, which are not made from the same leaves as the above-mentioned teas.


    All-Star of the Day: Avocados

    It ain’t easy being an avocado. Despite being full of nutrition and health benefits,many people think all they do is make them fat. Allow me to set the record straight.

    Let’s start with some very basic nutritional info for this fruit. Half an avocado provides 160 calories, 14.7 grams of fat, 6.7 grams of fiber, and 487.4 milligrams of potassium.

    To put it into perspective, that’s a banana’s worth of potassium and as much fiber as two slices of whole grain bread.

    Many people get hung up on the fat (when eating a 2,000 calorie diet, the recommendation is that your total fat intake not surpass the 65 gram mark).

    As you will soon read in issue 4 of Small Bites, though, all fat is not created equal.

    The fat in avocados is a tremendously healthy one known as monounsaturated fat – the same one that largely makes up olive oil.

    Avocados even beat olive oil when it comes to their proportion of a specific monounsaturated fat known as oleic acid.

    Oleic acid (sometimes referred to as “omega-9”) has been shown to lower total and bad cholesterol while simultaneously increasing good cholesterol. Even better, it is a great defense against the development of atherosclerosis (the collection of fatty deposits in our artery walls that restrict bloodflow).

    Remember that there are three components that help us feel satiated: fat, fiber, and protein. Avocados are high in fiber and fat, so just half of one (160 calories) included in a meal will satisfy your hunger for quite a while.

    Take something like pretzels — which have no fat, almost no fiber, and very little protein. You could eat 500 calories’ worth and still feel like gnoshing on something.

    Please do not fall prey to the notion that “eating fat makes me fat”. It is entirely untrue. Excess calories lead to weight gain. Because there are 9 calories per gram of fat (as opposed to 4 calories per gram of protein or carbohydrate), it is a more concentrated source of calories, but, for example, if you eat copious amounts of rice (a fat-free food), you will most certainly gain weight.

    A study published in the March 2005 issue of Annals of Oncology, a European medical cancer research journal, provided some promising results – oleic acid (abundant in avocados) drastically cut down the levels of a gene that appears to be responsible for the onset of breast cancer.

    There’s more! I recently mentioned that fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) can not be properly absorbed by the body unless we accompany them with some kind of fat (hence their name).

    Avocados not only already have vitamins A, E, and K, they are also a tremendous tool to help us absorb nutrients from other foods.

    In fact, a team of researchers at Ohio State decided to study this, and the astonishing results were published in the March 2005 issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

    When it came to eating a salad with high amounts of alpha and beta carotene (compounds found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables which our body converts into Vitamin A), people who included avocados in this salad absorbed 8.3 more times alpha carotene and 13.6 times more beta carotene than those who skipped the fat!

    Avocados are also high in lutein, a fat-soluble pigment which helps keep eyes, hearts, and – in men’s case – prostates healthy. Our body does not make lutein, so it is imperative we get it from our diet.

    Avocados, much like bananas, ripen very quickly. If you are planning to prepare a meal with the avocado you buy today, be sure lightly press your thumb against it to test for its softness. Otherwise, go for one that is a little hard and allow it to ripen in your kitchen – at room temperature – for a few days.

    Even kitchen-phobes have no excuse for not enjoying this delicious fruit – all you need is a cutting board and knife.

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