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Functional Foods
Make Every Calorie Count

by Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDE

Now, on to the dairy section. Some eggs are fortified with omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat that may help protect against heart disease. (These eggs don’t supply nearly as many omega-3 fatty acids as a serving of fatty fish, though.) Milk is an excellent source of calcium and is one of the few foods that supply vitamin D (calcium and vitamin D are nutrients essential for good bone health). Choose nonfat or low-fat milk to limit your intake of saturated fat. If you can’t tolerate milk because of lactose intolerance (the inability to digest the sugar in milk), yogurt may be an option for you. The bacterial cultures found in yogurt produce some of the enzyme needed to digest lactose, making yogurt easier to tolerate. Look for yogurts that contain “live and active cultures,” which should be indicated on the container. Common bacterial cultures found in yogurt are helpful in keeping your digestive tract healthy. Soy milk and soy yogurt are healthful alternatives to cow’s milk and yogurt, too. Components of soy products may help protect against heart disease, some cancers, and osteoporosis.

Pay a visit to the spice aisle. Many spices and herbs, including oregano, rosemary, turmeric, cumin, and garlic contain antioxidants, powerful ingredients that pack a punch when it comes to fighting against diseases like heart disease and cancer. Regular consumption of cinnamon has even been shown to lower blood glucose and blood fat levels in people with Type 2 diabetes.

Finally, take a walk down the beverage aisle of the grocery store. Cranberry juice may help ward off urinary tract infections and was recently found to help reduce dental cavities (although the added sugar in most cranberry juice cocktails may counter this effect). Purple grape juice contains flavonoids, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and limit the formation of blood clots. Keep in mind, however, that fruit juices tend to be high in calories and carbohydrate. Eight ounces of cranberry juice cocktail contain about 35 grams of carbohydrate. (Pure cranberry juice is lower in carbohydrate, with about 16 grams per 8 ounces, but is very tart and can be difficult to find outside of natural foods stores.) Eight ounces of grape juice contain about 40 grams of carbohydrate. One option is to try light cranberry juice cocktail (8 ounces contain only 10 grams of carbohydrate) and light grape juice cocktail (8 ounces contain 18 grams of carbohydrate), which are sweetened with artificial sweeteners.

If you’re a tea drinker, you’ll be happy to hear that black tea is rich in polyphenols, which may lower your chances of heart disease. If you prefer green tea, you’ll be happy to hear that it is an excellent source of catechins, compounds that may help lower cancer risk (including ovarian cancer) and heart disease.

Craving chocolate? Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day — the milk will help strengthen your bones, and the cocoa, which has even more antioxidant properties than tea, may help stave off cancer and keep your heart healthy, too.

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