Bombarded by warnings about what not to eat or drink? Well, there are still plenty of tasty, healthy items to indulge in - providing the quantities are small.
- Nuts are of great food value, with walnuts loaded with heart-healthy antioxidants, and macadamias and pecans the least healthy because of excessive fat and high calories.
- High on the list of good nuts are almonds, with a small handful giving almost 25 percent of the daily need for magnesium and more bone-strengthening calcium (as much as the same amount of milk). The high fiber content also helps in preventing colon cancer and lowers bad cholesterol in the blood stream.
- While pecans are high in calories, they do lower cholesterol and contain 20 essential vitamins and minerals, along with walnuts, with 16 different disease-fighting ingredients.
- Brazil nuts are also high in heart-healthy nutrients and minerals like copper, niacin, vitamin E and proteins that may aid in preventing breast cancer.
- Cashews have more magnesium than almonds, and most of the unsaturated (good) fat in them, as healthy as olive oil.
- Peanuts have more folate than any other nuts - and are the cheapest to buy.
- Even pistachios are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins.
Since the values vary (though most all nuts contain healthy proteins, fiber, unsaturated fats and important vitamins and minerals), it's wise to buy them in mixes, thus getting a balance from all. Of course, the greatest reward comes from raw, untreated nuts, and especially the organic varieties - enjoy them as small snacks daily and you've got winners in your diet.
Want to prevent constipation without taking addictive drugs? Apricots, grapes, plums, cranberries and prunes are among the low-calorie answers. More effective than the highly touted psyllium fiber, well-ripened fruits are delicious. Snack on them twice a day for satisfaction says Tufts' Health & Nutrition Letter.
The Letter also suggests that, along with so many vitamins and minerals that serve for good health, like berries of any sort, there is also the fact that, along with apples, tea, red wine and oranges, berries are now linked to lowering Parkinson's disease risk.
Further, it also finds that among women in particular, drinking coffee lowers the risk of stroke.
Here's a fascinating concept: Peanut butter and jelly can help save the world from global warming! Every time you eat them or other plant-based meals instead of one that features red meat, such as hamburger, you save the equivalent of almost 3.5 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Just ask any vegetarian about all the other perks involved, and try the Keweenaw Co-op's rich, juicy beetburger or Suomi's full-meal black bean burger - finger-lickin' good!
Another healthy surprise: pumpkins, apples, bananas and applesauce make great non-fat substitutes for fat in muffins and other bakeries.
For drinks: Flavor water with a twist of lemon, a small piece of fruit, slice of cuke, a bruised mint leaf, any edible flower and herbal tea.
And what about popcorn? According to The Week Magazine, if you don't buy the pre-packaged kind with unhealthy salt and grease included, here's good news: Air-popped popcorn served without any unhealthy guck is just about the healthiest low-calorie snack a person could consume. Use your imagination to flavor it: A mix of sugar substitute and cinnamon - delicious. A blend of brewer's yeast, soy sauce and touch of cayenne pepper, shaken in a bag - sticky but yummy.
Whatever you add to your air-dried popcorn, you should be overjoyed to realize that it has high levels of antioxidants, reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease, is also rich in fiber and nutritionally just about as good as veggies.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg! Follow published health articles and experiment. Remember: You really are what you eat!
Note: Little Brothers always need help, with Thursday coffee clutches and Scott's Wednesday movie matinees, and on the annual Spring Fling, coming soon; call for details - 482-6944.
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