Eat More Antioxidants

The diet described thus far in this chapter will help you lower your LDL. But certain foods can also make the LDL you do have less dangerous. As we talked about in Chapter 1, LDL is a bigger threat when it becomes oxidized. This happens because of exposure to free radicals, highly reactive molecules that are byproducts of bodily functions involving oxygen (which is just about all of them). When LDL is oxidized it becomes stickier and therefore more likely to form plaque. If LDL can be prevented from oxidizing, your arteries are less likely to become clogged. How do you prevent LDL from becoming oxidized? With antioxidants—which many of nature’s best-tasting foods happen to include. That’s one of the reasons youre going to eat less meat on the  Plan: so that you can make more room for fruits and vegetables.

Antioxidants in a Cup

Fruits and veggies aren’t the only way to get your antioxidants. Tea, whether black or green, caffemated or decaffeinated (herbal teas don’t count), has spectacular anti oxidant capabilities owing to large amounts of substances called flavonoids. In addition to preventing oxidation, flavonoids may have an anticlotting effect.

One study found that among people who’d had heart attacks, those who drank 14 or more cups of tea a week were 44 percent less likely to die in the 32 years following their heart attacks than those who didn’t drink any tea. In another study people who drank about 11/2 cups of tea daily had roughly half the risk of heart attack of those who didn’t drink tea. An added bonus: A cup of black te tea has less than half the caffeine of coffee; green tea has even less.

Bag it. When Consumer Reports tested the antioxidant punch of 15 brewed, bottled, and instant teas, it found most teas brewed from tea bags scored highest in antioxidant content. In fact, the magazine reported, “Brewed tea appears to have more antioxidant action than almost any whole fruit or vegetable—and more than most commercial fruit or vegetable juices, too.” But iced teas from mixes and bottle are a decent second choice; they contain a “good deal” of antioxidats, according to the magazine. Just watch the sugar content.

Dunk the bag. Continuously dunking the tea bag as the tea steeps seems to release far more antioxidant compounds than simply dropping it in and leaving it there.

Add lemon. One study found that the addition of lemon to plain tea increased its antioxidant benefits, That make sense, since lemon itself contains antioxidants.

Brew a batch. To make a day’s supply of iced tea, bring 20 ounces of water to a boil, then remove from the heat. Drop in three tea bags, cover, and steep for 10 minutes, Remove tea bags and refrigerate.

Try green tea. Because it isn’t fermented, green tea has even more antioxidant power than black tea does.

Chocolate’s Secret Health Benefits

Remember that- scene in the Woody Allen movie Sleeper in which Woody, who has been frozen for 200 years, wakes up to find that chocolate and banana créme pie are now health foods? Well it’s not so far-fetched. Chocolate is chock full of potent antioxidants called phenols, the same as those found in wine. In fact, a 1.5-ounce chocolate bar has as much antioxidant power as a 5-ounce glass of red wine. (White chocolate, which doesn’t contain any cocoa solids, doesn’t count.) And contrary to popular belief, chocolate contains only a very small amount of caffeme,

More good news: One-third of the fat in chocolate is a cholester 1-friendly fat called stearic acid, and another third is an unsaturated fat called oleic acid. When Pennsylvania researchers (including some from the Mars candy company) had 23 people follow either the average American diet or the same diet supplemented with 22 grams of cocoa powder and 16 grams of dark chocolate, they found that the chocolate diet reduced LDL oxidation. If you’re going to indulge

Choose dark. Dark chocolate contains more phenols than other forms of chocolate. Milk chocolate contains milk fat (palmitic acid) that is highly saturated. Semi-sweet chocolate has less fat than milk chocolate.

Kill two birds. Dip strawberries into melted chocolate for a high-antioxidant snack that can easily satisfy one or two fruit servings. An easy way to get melted chocolate is to simply microwave semi sweet chocolate chips on medium for about 30 seconds. Be sure the strawberries are complete dry before you dip.

Go for quality. Buy the richest, creamiest chocolate you can afford. You’ll be more satisfied with one piece of the good stuff than five pieces of the mediocre stuff.

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