We’re fairly certain it’s just a matter of time before our beloved dark chocolate is granted full health food status under international law, so glowing are recent reports about its many healthful benefits. Dark chocolate is a MUFA-rich treat bursting with protective antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and several mood-boosting chemical compounds. Apparently, this yum fest contains the same chemical your brain releases when you’re falling in love. No wonder it feels so good to indulge! Dark chocolate also contains small amounts of caffeine and theobromine, stimulants that help boost short-term brain function. Some studies also show that the flavonols in cocoa beans may even help protect us from sun damage by improving blood flow to the skin.
Nuts are so awesome it’s ridiculous. If you tend to run scared from them because of their high fat content, it’s time for a rethink. When eaten in moderation, nuts can be a dieter’s best friend. They’re so filling that around a handful each day does the trick. And they’re just so dang good for you! Studies show that people who include nuts as part of their regular diet are at lower risk of heart disease – the good fat in nuts helps reduce bad cholesterol and reduce inflammation in arteries, which means less chance of heart attack. Nuts are a great source of fibre and contain essential nutrients, including B-group vitamins, vitamin E, iron, potassium, selenium, magnesium and cancer-fighting antioxidant compounds like resveratrol and flavonoids. They’re also a moderate source of protein, and great for vegetarians and vegans. No one nut is necessarily better than any other, so we suggest you go wild and mix ’em up for maximum benefit.
Was there ever a more divine thing than the humble avocado? It’s good for your heart, blood pressure, circulation, bones, digestive system, central nervous system, brain, skin – you name it. Avocados help your body absorb essential nutrients from other foods. They’re also a rich source of glutathione, a super antioxidant believed to thwart around 30 different carcinogens. But aren’t they fattening? Well, that depends how many you plan to eat in a day! They do contain a lot of fat but remember, it’s the good MUFA kind that bestows all the aforementioned benefits. A whole medium avocado contains around 1000 kJs, and can be used with confidence as part of a weight-loss plan since the high water and fibre content makes them very filling. And because life without avocados is, well, a little less fun. There are many different varieties but the Hass is a popular pick, available year round across Australia. They have a distinctive green, pebbly textured skin, which turns a deep purple as the fruit ripens. A ripe avocado feels slightly soft when gently pressed on the bottom; it should feel heavy for its size and have no mushy spots. If you buy them on the green side, they’ll ripen in three to four days.
Our Mediterranean oleic acid, along with essential friends were on to something, as they took the olive – an already amazing morsel of goodness – and turned it into oil. Genius! In addition to its raft of heart- healthy, immune-boosting properties, when consumed daily, antioxidant-rich olive oil is believed to help guard against stroke, osteoporosis, arthritis, skin cancer and depression. Olive oil contains a particular mono-unsaturated fat called oleic acid, along with essential friends were on to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty something, as they took acids from the polyunsaturated fat family (and yep, you guessed it, those are called PUFAs!) When choosing olive oil, buy the best you can afford and opt for extra virgin where possible. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO in foodie speak) comes from the first cold pressing of the olives. Next comes ‘virgin’ olive oil, from the second pressing. ‘Pure’ and ‘light’ are regarded as lower-quality oils.
Olives can certainly be something of an acquired taste but once you have it, you’re hooked for life. Positively brimful of MUFA goodness, these little gems are not only heart healthy, but provide powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, and are thought to offer protection against ills ranging from allergies right through to cancer. Kalamata olives (they’re a deep, rich eggplant colour and tend to be larger and more fleshy than standard black or green olives) contain large amounts of a phenol called hydroxytyrosol. Scientists believe this, along with other phenols found in olives, may help prevent DNA damage and stop abnormal cell growth. There’s particularly promising research into how these phenols might protect against colon cancer. Olives as a weight-loss aid? Why, yes indeed. With around 650 kJs per cup, olives are the perfect snack food for anyone watching the scale. Around 10 olives per day delivers all the aforementioned MUFA awesomeness, plus they’re sugar-free, low-carb, low-GI, and high in fibre, which means they fill you up fast and stop you reaching for other less desirable snacks.