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“Ah!” The Beauty Of Eating: Foods That Help You Look And Feel Good:

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

Food can be such an “indulgent” pleasure but it can also be quite the pleasurable peril, especially if you’re watching your waistline and counting calories. Not to mention that beyond the beltline, there are also health issues revolving around our daily repast. From foods that lower our immune system, increase our vulnerability to aging and disease to those that simply leave us feeling “guilty” about the extra calories, or make us prone to pimples, we literally are (or become) what we eat.

The good news is that lots of good (tasting) foods are also good for us, and despite the calorie concerns, we can enjoy them guilt free.

Eatin’-O- The Green: Avocados are, like most green fruits and veggies packed of essential nutrients. They are rich, creamy and hearty; and despite the 300 calories per serving, they are extremely healthy for your heart, especially if you eat them in moderation.

Avocados contain some of the most important monounsaturated oils noted for lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, and, contrary to popular belief that they contain cholesterol, they don’t, no plants do.

This decadent fruit also offers folate, vitamins C and E, potassium and fiber (12 grams in each). Furthermore they consist of phytochemicas such as beta-sitosterol (a sterol known to lower cholesterol), glutathione (an antioxidant noted for it’s ability to protect against certain types of cancers), and lutein (a carotenoid) that may guard against macular degeneration and cataracts). And, recent research showed that avocados might also help increase absorption of carotenoids from other foods.

Avocados are said to ripen within about a week after picking. To expedite the process, experts suggest storing in a paper bag. Wash before cutting and eat plain, use in dips or as a spread in lieu of ingredients that have greater concentrations of saturated fat. Note that for every ounce of butter replaced by avocado, you’ll also salvage 18 grams of fat; for every ounce of cream cheese (replaced), you’ll save 50 calories and 5 fat grams.

Get A Taste Of The Blues: Blue may often be a color often associated with “coolness” but blueberries have become quite the “hot” dietary hit.

With more antioxidants than most other foods including kale, broccoli and oranges, combined with their naturally sweet taste, low calorie count, and high fiber content, makes them one of the most satisfying “snacks” among food lovers and nutritional/culinary experts alike.

It has been noted that the antioxidants found in blueberries can guard against certain cell damage that speeds up aging, leading to wrinkles and increased risk of disease. In fact, studies show that 2/3 cups of blueberries offered the same antioxidant protection against free radicals as 1,773 IU of vitamin E or 1,270 milligrams of vitamin C; and this fulfilling fruit rated third in the list of 40 fruits and veggies noted for their antioxidant abilities.

Blueberries also contain a substantial amount of soluble fiber known as pectin, which is responsible for reducing cholesterol levels. And, many professionals suggest that the fruit many protect against LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidizing and delaying the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries. Furthermore, pectin is advantageous to the digestive tract, adding bulk to stool without stimulating bowel movements. But, professionals point out that the laxative effect may be a possibility for some.

Blueberries come in a two varieties: cultivated and wild. Cultivated blueberries are the type most of us are familiar with and purchase at our local super market. They are generally marble-sized, round and plump with a rich blue hue and a whitish (looking) “film” on the surface.

Wild blueberries tend to be more rare. Generally speaking they are sold fresh in areas with cooler climates (such as Maine or Canada), and are commonly available canned or frozen. Wild blueberries tend to be smaller than their cultivated counterparts and have a chewy, dense texture and deeper flavor….and frequently they can leave your lips blue.

While cultivated blueberries may be found most of the year, wild blueberries have a limited season, and are generally not shipped too far beyond their growing area.

While frozen and canned blueberries are always an option (especially for the wild kind), you should always opt for fresh first. Look for those with a deep blue color and that are covered with a chalky white “film: This bloom is a sign of freshness. Additionally, the berries should move freely when you shake the package, if not, it may mean they are too soft and stuck together.

Thoroughly examine the box. If it’s a wooden or cardboard container, any dampness or stains may indicate the fruit is crushed, moldy, or decayed.

If fresh blueberries are “not your thing”, you can still derive its many benefits in a variety of (other) ways).

Blueberry juice is just one option. This piquant product is usually sweetened with (other) fruit juices such as apple or grape juice and can be found in health-food stores (though more and more main-stream markets are carrying health-food and natural products). Blueberry-juice concentrate is the unsweetened version and nothing but pure blueberry juice, and can also be found in health-food markets.

Dried blueberries are yet another option. They are generally found in specialty stores and can be used just like raisins. Like all dried fruit, they provide a concentration of the whole fruit's nutrients; in this case, they are a particularly abundant source of anthocyanins (naturally occurring compounds that impart color to fruit).

Fresh blueberries should be stored in the refrigerator (just like any other food). Food professionals point out that it’s important to remove any crushed or moldy berries from the pack before storing. They suggest emptying the berries into a bowl, discarding any “bad” berries, returning the rest to the container, and storing in the fridge.

If you have an excess, freeze them. Spread unwashed berries on a cookie sheet and place it in the freezer until fruit is hardened, then place the berries in a plastic bag.

Prior to usage, rinse fresh berries and pat dry. Except for clearing an arbitrary leaf, a fine stem, or unripened berry (reddish ones may be cooked but not eaten ray), they are good to go.

Allow frozen berries to thaw at room temperature for a few minutes prior to including to uncooked dishes. You can also thaw by running under warm water and patting dry. When using frozen berries in recipes that require cooking, add a few minutes to the cooking time. Before adding to batter, dust them with flour first; the coating prevents them from dropping to the bottom of the pan.

Keep in mind that while their rich color and distinctive sweet taste makes them look and taste good, blueberries can help YOU look and feel good. Rich in anthocyanins that puts the blue in blueberries makes them high in antioxidants and among the cancer-fighting foods.

Flavonoid phytochemicls in the fruit prevent blood platelets from sticking together and forming clots that contribute to heart attacks.

Much like their cousin, the cranberry, this berry has also demonstrated an ability to fight bacteria and inhibit bacterial infections in the urinary tract. And, some research revealed that this berry might be berry good for reversing mental decline.

Seeing Red: Another red-hot fruit is the red-hot pomegranate. This ruby red Middle Eastern gem is just as healthy for you as oranges. In fact recent studies show that pomegranate juice may help lower the damage that LDL (“bad”) cholesterol can do to artery walls. Some research even showed that 8 ounces daily lowered blood pressure by 5 percent in those with hypertension and that it often had the same affects as various anti-hypertensive drugs.

Red fruits have generally noted for their beneficial phytochemicals, and for their potent antioxidant qualities due to the high concentration of polyphenols (much like those found in green tea, red grape juice, or orange juice). Furthermore, pomegranates are low in calories and offer a day’s worth of recommended vitamin C, as well as, some essential iron and calcium.

Pomegranates are also available in juice form as well as fruit form. If you prefer to sink you teeth into your vitamins, you should look for pomegranates that are round and feel heavy for its size.

The best way to open and enjoy one is: cut off the crown end, then gently and lightly slit the rind and membrane in four vertical serrations. Soak the fruit in a bowl of water for about 5 minutes. Holding it under water, break each section, separating the seeds from the membrane. The seeds will sink, while the rest floats. Pour the seeds into a colander and throw away the membrane and rind. Rinse, pat dry, and enjoy. Uncut fruit will last for about four weeks in the fridge, or for about a week if cut and placed in placed in plastic wrap before refrigerating.

Take The Bait: Experts suggest that one of the easiest and tastiest ways to stay healthy is by getting hooked on fish, even if it’s just a little.

Fish (like many plants) is one of the most nutritious sources of proteins with ample amounts of vitamins, minerals and omeg-3 fatty acids necessary for keeping you in good standing. Furthermore, in comparison to most meats and poultry, fish is much lower in total and saturated fats.

Just two servings of fish per week can provide you with major health benefits including reduced risk of heart attack; improved infant eye and brain development; weight control (when prepared properly such as grilling, broiling, steaming, or blackening); reducing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis; and impeding the development of breast cancer

While some may prefer to get these essential nutrients from other sources, including supplements and plants, research shows that although many of these supplemental sources (such as walnuts, flaxseeds, and canola oil) are an excellent source for nutritional “replacement” you would need copious amounts to receive the advantages offered by fish. And, most agree that auxiliary forms of alpha-linolenic acid are best used in conjunction with direct sources (such as fish), rather than in place of them.

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