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Food Mistakes That Can Get in the Way of Healthy Eating

Are you making these common nutrition blunders?

Healthy Eating Mistake No. 4: Not Taking Advantage of Food Synergy

Do you peel your apples or tomatoes? Do you eat your veggie-rich green salad with fat-free dressing? Do you like to peel and chop your garlic right before adding it into your stir-fry or sauce? If you answered "yes" to any of the above, you are decreasing the availability to your body of important nutrients found in these foods.

That's because there are all sorts of relationships between the various components within certain foods and between certain foods, a concept called "food synergy." For example, certain phytochemicals in apple peel account for most of apples' healthy antioxidant activity, so peeling apples isn't the healthiest way to go.

Also, it's a good idea to let your minced or chopped garlic rest for 15 minutes before proceeding with cooking, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. This helps ensure that the enzymatic reaction that begins when garlic is chopped releases as much of the antioxidant allyl sulfur as possible -- and thus maximizes the cancer-fighting benefits.

If you're dressing a salad or making a homemade marinara sauce, make sure you include some healthy fats, like avocado or olive oil. Eating a little "good fat" along with your vegetables helps your body absorb healthy phytochemicals, like lycopene from tomatoes and lutein from dark green vegetables. So enjoy your salad with some avocado or a light dressing made with canola or olive oil. And add a drizzle of olive oil when you are whipping up a batch of spaghetti sauce.

And when it comes to tomatoes, for maximum nutrient value, don’t peel them, and eat them cooked and processed.

Healthy Eating Mistake No. 5: Avoiding High-Fat Plant Foods

The three foods that come to mind are avocados, nuts, and olives, which are relatively high in calories and fat but low in saturated fat. These foods contribute smart fats to our diet, and they come with fiber and phytochemicals, too.

Moderation is the key here. So enjoy a quarter of an avocado on sandwiches and in salads, or a handful of nuts as a snack or added to your salad, cereal, or pasta. Use a light drizzle of olive oil in cooking. And add olives to salads, sandwiches, and casseroles, or eat them as a snack.

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

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