Become an Opportunist

Think fast: How many servings of vegetables have you had today? One? None? How about fruit? If you’re like many Americans, you miss plenty of opportunities for getting them—like ordering a veggie topping for your pizza or adding raisins to your oatmeal. On the Plan you’ll become a fruit-and-veggie opportunist. Not only are these foods loaded with cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, they also contain other artery friendly compounds, such as cholesterol-reducing sterols and antioxidants. You’ll aim for nine servings a day; most Americans get fewer than four.

Best for Cholesterol

All fruits and vegetables have health benefits to offer. But some are especially good for your arteries. Among the best:

Avocados. Although this is one of the few fruits high in fat, it’s mainly monounsaturated fat. Several studies find that eating one avocado a day can lower your LDL as much 17 percent while raising your HDL. Try them in salads and sandwiches or mashed with a bit of lemon juice, onion, and chopped tomato as a topping forn baked potatoes, Just don’t go overboard; one avocado has about 340 calories,

Garlic. Garlic can lower cholesterol modestly as well as prevent blood from becoming sticky and forming dangerous clots. The compound most studies focus on, allicin, is the same one that gives garlic its distinctive odor, In one analysis of five trials in which participants received either garlic supplements or a placebo, the authors concluded that you could lower your total cholesterol about 9 percent with the equivalent of 11/2 to 3 cloves of garlic daily for two to six months,

You need to crush, chop, or otherwise bruise the cloves to release the allicin. For a sweet way to get your garlic, remove the loose paper covering from a head of garlic, cut off the tops of the garlic, drizzle olive oil on it, wrap in foil, and bake in a 350°F oven until soft, about an hour. Then squeeze the heads of the cooked garlic onto toasted bread and spread.

What if you don’t like garlic, also known as the “stinking rose”? Can you get the same benefits from a garlic pill? Maybe, if you choose the right one. A study by found that 7 of 14 garlic supplements tested contained Jess of the active ingredient (allicin) than researchers say is necessary for a therapeutic effect. Those doses include 3,600 to 5,400 milligrams of allicin, while the doses in the products tested ranged from 400 to 6,500 milligrams. The products that met or exceeded recommended doses included Garlinase 4000, Nutrilite Garlic Heart Care Forrmula Dietary Supplement, Spring Valley Enteric Coated Odor-Free Garlic 1,200 milligrams equivalent per tablet, and Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract.

Oranges. Think of your morning orange juice as cholesterol medicine in a glass. After drinking three glasses of orange juice a day for four weeks, 25 participants in a

Canaclian trial increased their HDL levels 21 percent and lowered their LDL/HDL ratio 16 percent, Of course, if you’re watching your calorie intake, three glasses of juice is a lot; you’ll probably want to stick to a glass or two a day.

Prunes. Prunes (dried plums) contain a special kind of soluble fiber called pectin, which forms a gel in your intestines that sops up cholesterol before it hits your blood stream, Blend cooked prunes with water into a puree that can replace oils and fats in baking, add dried prunes to stews for a delicious sweetness, or chop and sprinkle over salads, yogurt, collage cheese, or cereal

10 Fast Fruit and Veggie Ideas

Struggling to get your fill of fruits and vegetables? Try these 10 tricks:

1. Start with vegetables.Before you put anything else on your plate, start with a salad, heap of green beans, or a stalk of broccoli. After you’ve eaten your vegetables, add the other components of the meal. Since you’re eating your veggies first, when you’re hungry, you’re likely to eat more.

2. Make a super salad. One 7-ounce bag of washed lettuce equals a bit more than one serving. Add a sliced tomato, a diced apple, anda quarter cup of raisins and you’ve just increased that to four servings.

3. Keep it convenient. Pither slice vegetables yourself and keep them in the fridgen ice water or buy precut vegetables. Don’t shun canned fruits, either. If they’re packed in unsweetened syrup, they provide a quick, convenient way to gel a serving or more. Try canned peaches on ice cream or mandarin orange segments in salads. Frozen vegetables are another excellent. shortcut, Throw them into soups or stews without defrosting. Buy bags of frozen chapped onions and peppers for quick starts to dinners.

4. Drink them. Although youdon’t get the same amount of fiber in canned fruit orvegetable juice as you do in the whole fruit, it’s still a good way to get a serving
or two a day. Add a small can of V-8 or tomato juice to your afternoon snack, or
throw a banana, a cup of berries, and a container of nonfat yogurt into your
blender for a three-fruit-servings smoothie. Sprinkle flaxseeds on top for even
more cholesterol-lowering power.
5. Get them on pizza. Forget the pepperoni. Order a vegetable pizza. You’ll get
sweet, roasted vegetables with every slice.
6. Hide them, Add grated carrots to lasagna or spaghetti sauce. And use potato
puree to thicken soups in place of cream.
7. Use them as condiments. Salsas are all the rage these days. Don’t stop with tomato salsas. Fruit salsas (pineapple, onion, and mint, or cantaloupe, balsamic
vinegar, and brown sugar) make wonderful accompaniments to pork, fish, and chicken. Try jarred chutneys for an easy option.
8. Give ’em a roast. Roasting vegetables such as onions, carrots, turnips, bell peppers, eggplant, and even asparagus is a wonderful way to bring out their natural
sweetness, Just spray the vegetables and pan with cooking spray, or drizzle on a bit of olive oil, then roast in a hot oven (450°F) until done. (Different vegetables require different cooking times.) Check often, and turn midway through.
Grilling is another way to bring out the flavor in vegetables; try zucchini strips al your next backyard cookout.
9. Get them in burgers. Veggie burgers, that is.
10. Plan an adventure. Buy one exotic fruit or vegetable on your next trip to the grocery store, Here are some to try (and some ways to try them): Carambolas (star fruit). Ripen at room temperature (the ribs on the skin will turn brown) then refrigerate. To serve, cut into star shapes with the skin. They’re a great complement to meat in stir-fries.

Plantains. Available year-round, this slightly acidic fruit tastes a bit like squash. Try green plantains peeled and chunked in stews.

Tomatillos. Available year-round from Mexico and California, these small fruits resemble green tomatoes and have a slight, sweet apple or plum flavor. They’re the basis of green salsa and are loaded with vitamins A and ©,

Belgian endive. This type of lettuce has a mild, slightly bitter favor, and it’s packed with fiber, iron, and potassium. Use it in salads and substitute it for ‘ crackers with vegetable dips.
Jicama. Known as the Mexican potato, jicarna (HE-cali-ma) is a root tuber, like potatoes. Buy it smooth and firm with unblemished roots. Serve it cold and raw, or iT} Soups, Stews, or salarls. It’s great asa substitute for water chestnuts.
Bok choy. An Asian cabbage, bok choy is excellent chopped and stir-fried in a bit of peanut oil and soy sauce, or throw it into soup just before serving.

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