Eating Healthier: Picking the Right Ingredients

The next time you are tempted to reach for a doughnut or munch on a bacon cheeseburger or hot dog, instead choose a snack or meal that contains anti-inflammatory ingredients that will boost your immune system and help get rid of your gut.

Author Alicia Hilton Web Headshot

Brown flaxseeds. Photo: AlishaVBrown flaxseeds. Photo: AlishaV

Does your body armor ride up above your gut or gape under your arms because it's too small? Can you chase a suspect on foot for more than a few blocks without slowing down or feeling out of breath?

Law enforcement officers who are overweight or out of shape are putting their own safety and the public safety at risk. If you've tried dieting, you've probably discovered that many low-fat entrees don't taste much better than cardboard. They also leave you feeling hungry, which can lead to binging on unhealthy snacks.

For optimal health, each meal should contain complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and some fat. But not all fats are created equal. Saturated fats such as butter, cream, fatty meats, and hydrogenated oils such as margarine and vegetable shortening will clog arteries. These bad fats also hurt the immune system and make it harder for the body to repel pathogens and repair tissues that are stressed. This process leads to chronic inflammation, which increases your risks of getting cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease. And it gives you an unattractive gut.

The next time you're tempted to reach for a doughnut or munch on a bacon cheeseburger or hot dog, stop yourself. Choose a snack or meal that contains anti-inflammatory ingredients that will boost your immune system and help get rid of your gut. In the first part of this two-part blog, I'll provide a list of healthy fats and, in the second part, a one-day menu of recipes to get you started. Each of the meals will satisfy your appetite and your taste buds.

Extra virgin olive oil should be your main cooking oil, but don't cook olive oil at high heat. Olive oil also is excellent for salad dressings and for flavoring food after cooking. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids that help reduce the risk of heart disease, help lower cholesterol levels, and help with blood-sugar control, a benefit that is especially important for people with diabetes.

Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil contain Omega-3 essential fatty acids that benefit heart health. Flaxseeds are rich in fiber and may help to prevent some types of cancer. Regular consumption of flaxseeds can help to reduce some of the unpleasant symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes.

Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil are an excellent source of essential amino acids and other nutrients that help reduce inflammation, improve bladder and prostate function, lower cholesterol, and prevent some types of cancer. Pumpkin seeds also are rich in magnesium, and regular consumption of pumpkin seeds helps to prevent depression. Use pumpkin-seed oil for salad dressings, add it to smoothies, or use it to flavor other cold or hot foods after they've been prepared. Pumpkin-seed oil should be used for low-temperature cooking only.

Avocados and avocado oil help to reduce cholesterol, prevent some types of cancer, lower the risk of heart disease, and also benefit eye health.  Avocados are an excellent source of vitamin E, folate, oleic acid, and lutein.  Use avocado oil to sauté fish, vegetables, poultry or meat, to flavor hot and cold dishes after they have been prepared, or for salad dressings. Avocado oil can be cooked at high heat.

Coconut oil is a saturated fat, but it's one of the few saturated fats that offers health benefits. It contains medium-chain fatty acids that can boost your metabolism and help you lose weight. It's also a rich source of lauric acid, a compound that has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-protozoa properties. Purchase coconut oil that has not been hydrogenated (extra virgin coconut oil). Coconut oil has a high smoking point, so it can be cooked at high heat.

Almonds, walnuts, cashews, and other tree nuts are excellent sources of healthy unsaturated fats. Omega-3 fatty acids can improve heart health and help prevent blood clots. Nuts also are an excellent source of fiber, and regular consumption of nuts helps lower "bad" LDL cholesterol. Walnuts and almonds are especially nutrient rich. Because of their high smoke point and delicious flavor, nut oils can be used in many types of recipes, including baked goods, salad dressings, meat, vegetable, and poultry dishes.

Low-mercury fish such as salmon, cod, black cod (sablefish), herring and sardines are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and other beneficial nutrients. Fish oil helps lower cholesterol, reduces inflammation in the digestive tract and other parts of the body, helps prevent depression, helps reduce joint pain, supports eye and heart health, and may help prevent some types of cancer.

To help rid your body of toxins and help you lose weight, you should stay hydrated. Drink six to eight glasses of water each day or consume drinks that are mostly water such as green tea, sparkling water with lemon, or very diluted fruit juice. Green tea is packed with antioxidants that reduce inflammation, help prevent cancer, and help burn fat and reduce cholesterol.

Before making dietary modifications, talk to a health professional. Some foods can interact with prescription medication. A food diary will help you keep track of weight loss and other benefits of dietary changes. Some medications can cause unpleasant side effects such as dizziness, rash, or vomiting. A new food shouldn't make you sick unless you have an allergy or sensitivity.


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About the Author
Author Alicia Hilton Web Headshot
Special Agent (Ret.)
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