Four Ways to Eat Better

41 PERCENT That’s how much your risk for a stroke is lowered if you regularly use olive oil in cooking and dressing as compared with people who never use olive oil, according to a new study published in Neurology.

CRUNCHY BUNCH Freeze-dried foods aren’t just for astronauts anymore—they’re a healthy new way to increase your fruit consumption. Unlike traditional drying methods, which can involve exposure to nutrient- and antioxidant-damaging heat, freeze-drying involves getting produce at peak ripeness and then removing its moisture and oxygen in a low-temperature vacuum chamber. The end result: light and crispy morsels of goodness with nutrients intact. Available at many grocery and natural food stores, they make great snacks on their own, but you can also use them to add a vitamin-packed crunch to yogurt, cereal or salad—or grind them into a powder and add to pancake batter or smoothies.

CUCKOO FOR COCONUTS? No longer snubbed as a dangerous source of saturated fat, coconut oil is getting props as a bona fide health food. Its lauric acid may ward off illness by boosting your immune system, says Chrissy Barth, R.D., a dietitian in Scottsdale, Ariz. Preliminary research also suggests it could cut your cholesterol levels. Just use in moderation, and make unsaturated fats your primary focus, says Barth.

BRAIN FOOD Here’s another reason to ditch simple carbs: New research from the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle found a link between diet and Alzheimer’s disease risk. For four weeks, elderly test subjects dined on high saturated fat and high glycemic index foods (e.g., white bread and white rice) or low saturated fat and low glycemic index foods (whole grains, beans and vegetables). Eating the former foods increased levels of a protein often found in brains afflicted by Alzheimer’s, but the latter were linked to lower levels of the protein, plus reduced brain inflammation and better problem-solving abilities.

Source: Natural Health Magazine, December/January 2012

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