Foods to Boost Your Health (cont.)

The whole Mediterranean diet, in fact, is based on eating "good" oils, without the saturated fats (bad fats, which increase cholesterol and are associated with heart disease) in meats consumed sort of as a side dish rather than the main part of the meal.

"The incidence of breast cancer was cut by as much as 12% in people who ate a lot of vegetables."

One tasty way to get the oil is to put some in a shallow dish and splash in some balsamic vinegar. This makes a terrific dip for fresh bread -- instead of balancing hard chunks of cold butter on each slice.

For another treat, coat fresh asparagus in olive oil, sprinkle with thyme, and cook in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Healthy Food No. 3: Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are rich in fiber, which lowers cholesterol and prevents constipation. The little wonders also contain lignans, another polyphenol compound that may protect against cancer. The seeds and their oil also contain those heart smart omega-3 fatty acids you've heard so much about.

Flaxseeds take a little tender loving care. You need to store them in the fridge because they can go rancid. The oil must also be kept cold and must not be heated or put into baked goods.

To prepare the seeds, you can grind them in a normal coffee grinder. Then sprinkle a tablespoon or two on your cereal, throw it into meatloaf, toss into cookie batter, or adorn your next dish of yogurt.

As for taking flaxseed oil in pill form, many people do it and find it helps with creaky joints. Better to eat them as seeds, though, Horacek notes.

Healthy Food No. 4: Oatmeal

Turns out the Quaker guy was right -- oatmeal is good for you. Oats rush cholesterol out of your system, cutting those important numbers.

Most nutritionists suggest eating the long-cooking kind of oats versus instant. If eaten as a cereal, this can be garnished with milk and a spray of brown sugar or even a little butter.

Or add some blueberries -- even the frozen ones are now known to be nutritional super fruits! According to a study done at Tufts University, half a cup of these little beauties packs twice as many antioxidants as most Americans get in an entire day.

Oatmeal can also be presented in delicious cookie form. Don't forget those raisins -- they contain the same phytochemicals as red wine, which is also turning out to be a healthy addition to the diet, in moderation, of course.

Cross also puts oatmeal in meatloaf and casseroles.

Healthy Food No. 5: Tea

If you sip on soda at the desk, substituting green tea could be a lifesaver. Even black teas -- and especially the new, trendy "white tea"-- also can up your antioxidant levels.

The beautiful, pale, green tea is rich in polyphenols, a free radical fighter. Green tea also may boost your metabolism, helping you burn off food.

Brew it from leaves (1 teaspoon per cup) or use a green teabag and a peppermint tea bag together to amp up the flavor.

As for white tea -- all tea comes from a white-flowered evergreen called Camellia sinensis. The color depends on how the plant is processed. When the buds are picked while silvery-white, it's white tea. If the leaves are withered and heated, it becomes other types of tea.

Some people maintain that white tea keeps the most disease-fighting flavinoids on tap for use. White, green, or black -- tea beats soda any day!

"There is no perfect food," Horacek reminds us. "You need a variety."

Speaking of which -- we haven't even mentioned peanut butter (good against heart disease and diabetes), apples (just found to benefit the lungs of smokers), tomatoes and watermelon (thought now to fight prostate cancer), sardines (full of omega-3s and calcium) and turmeric (contains curcumin, which is thought to fight tumor growth).

Why waste a bite on a doughnut or piece of gummy white bread, when you could be eating something that goes to work to help you?

SOURCES: Audrey Cross, PhD, professor of public health, Columbia University, New York City. Tanya M. Horacek, PhD, RD, associate professor, Syracuse University

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