Lunden Souza: Learn how to get the most out of your food

04/07/2012 1:04 AM

04/07/2012 1:36 AM

Food and healthy eating are topics that I thoroughly enjoy talking and writing about.

Creating a balanced diet on a day-to-day basis for me is something that I take very seriously. I try to obtain as much sound information as possible through research and my own experience to share with others and, I hope, encourage them to move in the right direction.

We have to make the choice of what to consume many times a day and, as I have mentioned in previous columns, it matters what you consume as well as when.

Also worth considering is food pairing. Some foods do their job a lot better with the help of others, and pairing can increase the benefits those foods and drinks provide.

One of my favorite food-drink combinations is green tea with lemon. When I started becoming extremely serious about health and fitness I made a fitness journal. This journal was just a bunch of online and magazine cutouts that I pasted on the pages of a notebook, but it was one of the best tools I had in the beginning of my journey.

One of the first articles I pasted in there was about the benefits of green tea when paired with lemon juice or any other ascorbic acid. When you digest green tea by itself, your body takes a certain amount of antioxidants from it but wastes the rest. When you put the lemon in your green tea, it can double the amount of antioxidants absorbed into your system after digestion. In addition, the lemon actually makes the tea taste a lot less bitter and a lot more refreshing.

Rice and beans are two foods that work well combined. Keeping your diet healthy and figure friendly would lead you to choose black beans and brown rice.

When rice and beans are eaten together, they form a complete protein. This means that all nine essential amino acids are present, and amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Luckily, rice and beans are a common couple in many diets, without their consumers even being aware of this complete protein property. One improvement -- switch from refried beans to black beans, and from plain or seasoned white rice to brown rice.

Healthy fats and vegetables are another excellent combination. I know that when people hear the word "fat" they automatically steer away from it, because it sounds like the opposite of what you would want to eat when trying to lose fat, right?

Good fats are necessary for your body to adequately absorb nutrients from the vegetables that you eat.

Good fats are found in foods such as olive oil, avocados, almonds and walnuts. Sauté your vegetables in a small amount of olive oil, or use an olive oil and vinegar combination for dressing instead of a fat-free variety. Add some avocado to a tomato, cucumber and broccoli salad to incorporate some healthy fats. Pack some almonds with cherry tomatoes and snap peas for an easy, on-the-go snack to get through a busy day. Don't be afraid of good fats, because they are not the enemy.

Just as your best friend or significant other should bring out the best qualities in you, look for foods that do that as well.

Buying healthier foods at the grocery store can be slightly more expensive than high-sodium packaged and processed foods. That's why you should be looking for beneficial food pairs in order to reap the most benefits.

Keep learning, keep trying and keep following the direction toward health and wellness.

Lunden Souza can be reached at lunden.souza@gmail.com.

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