When dark chocolate is included in a healthy diet, it can help improve overall heart health, reduce LDL ( "bad") cholesterol and blood pressure, and increase blood flow to the brain. It also may improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, which could reduce diabetes risk. The power of chocolate comes from flavonoids, a phytochemical found in the cacao bean, from which cocoa is taken. So the more cocoa a chocolate contains, the richer the chocolate's health-promoting content. Dark chocolate contains a higher percentage of cocoa than white or milk chocolate.
Even though dark chocolate has good-for-you flavonoids, it also has not-so-good-for-you sugar, calories, and fat. Overindulging can undo any of the previously mentioned health benefits. One ounce (roughly six Hershey's Kisses) is all you need to enjoy the benefits of dark chocolate without widening the waistline.
The pomegranate is hot. And for good reason. It's naturally high in polyphenol antioxidants, which can help your body's cells resist damage from free radicals, which affect everything from aging to cancer. In fact, pomegranates may have more antioxidant power than cranberry juice or green tea. This seedy fruit may lower cholesterol and improve blood flow to the heart in people with ischemic coronary heart disease. Pomegranate juice also may slow the growth of prostate cancer.
Some studies indicate that drinking 1-1/2 ounces of pomegranate juice daily is enough. But it's rather pricey, in terms of money and calories, so you might want to mix it with mineral or seltzer water to make the power juice go further.
The fact that avocados contain a good dose of heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats makes them unique among fruits. Avocados also contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that may help lower cholesterol.
Avocados are a good source of potassium. An adequate intake of potassium can help ward off high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. This fruit also is a good way to incorporate lutein, which helps eyesight and protects against breast cancer, in your diet.
Slice avocados just before using them so they won't discolor. If you need to cut them a bit a head of time, sprinkle the cut surfaces with lemon or lime juice. To slice them, first cut lengthwise around the seed. Twist the two halves apart in different directions, scoop out the pit with a spoon, and separate the flesh from the skin. Try 2 tablespoons mashed avocado or two to three thin slices instead of cream cheese or peanut butter on your favorite sandwich.
Beans, beans, the powerful fruit. The more you eat...the healthier you are. Beans, including garbanzo, white, black, red, and navy, are naturally low in fat and contain no saturated fat, trans fats, or cholesterol. They are high in protein, fiber, iron, folic acid, and potassium. While all beans have benefits, the more colorful beans, such as red and black, may have an added bonus: eight types of flavonoids. Scientists say these plant chemicals act as antioxidants, which give you protection against heart disease and certain cancers. Studies also suggest eating beans may help manage diabetes and reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
Cooking dry beans can take a long time. To cut the cooking time to minutes, use canned beans. Drain and thoroughly rinse them before adding them to a recipe. This reduces sodium content and eliminates some sugars that cause intestinal gas.
Tea, whether hot, cold, or infused into foods, has the power to keep hearts healthy. Studies have shown that regular tea consumption has a long list of benefits. It helps prevent cancer and heart disease; it may reduce the risk of stroke, obesity, arthritis, and diabetes; and has antioxidants that protect the body from the effects of aging. It may also protect against tooth decay and osteoporosis.
We all know you can drink tea, but you also can cook with it.
. Infuse rice by cooking it in brewed Sencha or Jasmine tea instead of water.
. Marinate poultry and tofu in brewed teas. For a floral flavor, try Earl Grey. For smoky taste, use Lapsang Souchong. For currant like sweetness, consider Rooibos.
. Grind oolong tea and white peppercorns together in a spice mill, then rub the ground mixture over meat, poultry, or fish before grilling or roasting.
Probiotics are the latest in the category of good-for-you foods. Basically, they are "good" bacteria added to foods or occurring naturally in certain yogurts, fermented dairy drinks, and in supplement form. Probiotics have been used as a form of treatment for a variety of gastrointestinal diseases including irritable bowel, lactose intolerance, traveler's diarrhea, and antibiotic-induced diarrhea.
How do they work? Scientists are not exactly sure but surmise that the good bacteria replace or crowd out the germs or bad bacteria in the intestinal tract. Another theory is that the good bugs keep the intestinal tract acidic where bad bugs can't survive. Our digestive tracts are lined with more than 400 different kinds of good bacteria that help fight off infection and keep us healthy. The largest group of good bacteria is the one found in yogurt. By consuming foods with probiotics, you can increase the number of healthy bacteria, boost your immunity, and promote a healthy digestive system