More Standout Foods Take Center Stage

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At a time when it seems like we’re constantly being told what NOT to eat, it’s refreshing to know that there are so many healthful, nutritious foods that are available for our enjoyment. So, without further ado, here are a few more for your consideration!

Garlic. Garlic is one of those foods that people tend to either love or hate. Its other name is the “stinking rose,” which is fitting, given its pungent smell and flavor. Garlic belongs to the same family as onions and leeks, and it’s rich in sulfur-containing compounds called thiosulfinates, sulfoxides, and dithiins. Don’t worry about what these are, let alone try to pronounce them. What IS important is that these compounds provide a host of health benefits.

For example, garlic is known to lower cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats), and also protect blood vessels from oxidative stress (oxidative stress triggers inflammation that, in turn, can lead to plaque buildup inside artery walls). Garlic can prevent blood clots and lower blood pressure. And in a recent study, researchers discovered that garlic can lower C-reactive protein (another marker of inflammation) and adenosine deaminase (an enzyme involved in metabolism), which have both been linked to increasing complications, such as heart disease, kidney disease and nerve damage, in people with Type 2 diabetes. Besides being rich in sulfur substances, garlic also contains a decent amount of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and selenium. You really can’t go wrong with this tasty herb.

Suggestions for eating garlic: Here’s a tip to make the most of your garlic: After you chop or crush it and before you cook it, let the garlic sit for at least five minutes to get the health-promoting enzymes “juiced up.” The great thing about garlic is that you can add it to virtually anything — pasta, soups, stews, vegetables, potatoes.

One of the best ways to eat garlic, in my book, is to roast it. Preheat your oven to 400°. Take an entire garlic bulb (with all of the cloves intact) and peel away just the outer layer of skin. Cut about a half inch off the top of the bulb so that you see the individual cloves. Place the bulb in a small oven-proof bowl or container and drizzle the top with olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. When it’s cool enough, loosen the cloves, and using a small fork or your fingers, squeeze out the roasted garlic. Spread it on bread, crackers, vegetables, or just about anything, really. You’ll enjoy the mellow, slightly sweet flavor!

Blueberries. Want to stay sharp as a tack in your golden years? Better include blueberries in your diet. These pretty little berries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities of all fruits and vegetables and that’s thanks to compounds called anthocyanins that give them their blue hue. But there are many other phytonutrients crammed into these plump little fruits, too, earning them their all-star nutrient status.

Like many other fruits and vegetables, eating blueberries regularly may help lower cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as blood pressure. What’s most exciting, however, is the possible impact of eating blueberries on cognitive function. Research has shown that older adults who ate 2 to 2 1/2 cups of blueberries each day showed improvement in cognitive test scores, including memory. It’s thought that blueberries may offer special antioxidant protection to nerve cells against oxygen damage.

And lest you be concerned about the effect of this fruit on your blood glucose, researchers have found that blueberries seem to have a low glycemic impact, meaning that they don’t spike blood glucose. In fact, in one study, subjects with Type 2 diabetes who ate at least three servings of low-glycemic-index fruit (including blueberries) each day showed improvements in A1C levels. Here’s another reason to include blueberries in your eating plan: they may help prevent damage to your eye’s retina from sunlight. One cup of fresh blueberries has about 85 calories, 20 grams of carbohydrate, and 4 grams of fiber.

Suggestions for eating blueberries: The great thing about blueberries is that you can eat them “as is” and be perfectly content. Try stirring them into Greek-style yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese for a lower-carb treat. Look for dried blueberries in your local grocery store or health food store and mix them with some nuts and seeds for another low-carb, healthy snack.

Edamame. Eda what? If you’re having trouble pronouncing this word and having even more trouble trying to figure out what it is, read on. Edamame (say, eda-mah-may) is a fancy word for green soybeans. Like a lot of the foods I’ve mentioned so far, edamame are rich in antioxidants and isoflavones, phytonutrients that are similar to the female hormone, estrogen. Isoflavones may help lower the risk of heart disease and breast and prostate cancer, and also lower blood pressure. Isoflavones can also reduce menopausal symptoms. A half-cup of edamame has 127 calories, 6 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of fiber, and 11 grams of protein. These legumes also contain vitamins C and E, B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, and a variety of other minerals, too.

Suggestions for eating edamame: Fresh edamame often come in the pod, which is fuzzy. Don’t eat that. Instead, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the edamame pods and boil for about 5 minutes. Drain. You can also steam edamame in a pot for 5 minutes. The pods should easily split open once they’re cooked. You can then enjoy the beans just as you would any legume — in salads, soups, or added to grain dishes.

More good foods next week!

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