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Super foods and what makes them so super

May 08, 2006

Nuts: In July 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a health claim for many nut varieties. The claim states: "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts ... as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease." Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts and peanuts qualify for the health claim.

Most types of nuts contain monounsaturated fat and dietary fiber, two elements that can help reduce bad cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol levels, leading to greater heart health.

Nuts also are a good source of vitamin E. The vitamin acts as an antioxidant that helps protect body cells from everyday damage, according to information provided by the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

Richly colored fruits and vegetables: Red, yellow and orange produce and dark green leafy vegetables are sources of carotenoids (alpha carotene, beta carotene, lutein and lycopene). These antioxidants help protect the body from chemical reactions within cells, which form free radicals. Free radicals are believed to cause damage and disease within the body.

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Carotenoids also have been shown to promote healthy vision, according to information from the ADA.

Foods such as avocados, carrots, spinach and tomatoes are sources of carotenoids.

Broccoli: Broccoli is full of nutrients believed to have healthful benefits. Beta carotene, vitamin C, calcium, iron and folate are all found in a serving of broccoli. Plant nutrients found in broccoli, bok choy and Brussels sprouts have cancer-fighting characteristics, according to information from the ADA.

Beans: All types of beans, from string beans to sugar snap peas, red kidney beans to garbanzos, are low in fat and are sources of protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron, folate, potassium and magnesium. Because of their nutrient makeup, beans might help lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar levels and lessen the risk of certain types of cancer.

Oats: Oats have been studied for their ability to reduce the risk of heart disease. When eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, oats can help lower bad cholesterol levels, leading to a more healthful heart.

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