It's the season for farm-fresh, garden-ripe produce, but you might miss out on the avalanche of age-defying nutrients packed inside tender greens, heirloom tomatoes, sweet carrots, crunchy snow peas and other salad stars unless you pick the right oil for your salad dressing. The big news: Drizzling olive, walnut, macadamia or canola oil over the veggies boosts your body's absorption of good-guy carotenoids that slash your risk for heart disease, cancer and vision loss.
Rich in monounsaturated fat, these healthy oils outperformed corn oil (found in many commercial salad dressings) and saturated fats (found in creamy toppings) at moving carotenoids out of salad veggies and into the bloodstream, a new Purdue University report reveals. A single teaspoon of monounsaturated oil worked just as well as a tablespoonful of the others. And that teaspoon's worth contains only 40 calories, so you can afford that splash of real oil instead of "diet" types that can't activate important, fat-soluble nutrients in your salad, such as lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin.
GOOD SUMMER FOODS
More summer eating strategies:
• Grill salmon, trout or sardines. If you're overweight, getting 1.5 grams of DHA plus EPA daily — omega-3 fatty acids that protect your heart and brain — dials back chronic, bodywide inflammation by 10 percent. Extra pounds around your middle, particularly on the belly, heat up inflammation. Cooling it puts a big chill on your odds for developing diabetes and a host of other age-you-early health problems. You'll get that much good fat from a 3 1/2-ounce serving of salmon, lake trout or sardines.
• Grab a peach, nectarine or plum. Turns out bioactive compounds in stone fruits have anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetes and anti-obesity properties. These protective chemicals help you burn fat cells and boost your immune system, and protect you from LDL cholesterol and plaque buildup in artery walls.
• Skip the store-bought sweets. Concentrated milk fats, added to many commercial desserts, trigger a bloom of bad-guy bacteria in your digestive system — irritating the lining of your intestines and increasing inflammation. University of Chicago scientists report that these fats could boost risk for chronic digestive problems such as colitis. Bite into a cool watermelon wedge instead and you get nearly 3 grams of fiber, which helps feed the good bacteria in your digestive system, along with the cancer-crusher lycopene, all for less than 100 calories.
• Trying to quit smoking? Eating more fruits and vegetables can help triple your odds for kicking the tobacco habit and staying smoke-free this summer. Researchers found the link by following 1,000 smokers for more than a year — and asking them what they were eating in addition to whether they'd conquered nicotine addiction. Produce-loving smokers lit up fewer cigarettes in a day, waited longer to have their first one in the morning and were less nicotine-dependent in the long run.
KEEP MEDS COOL
At temperatures above 86 degrees many drugs lose their effectiveness — their active ingredients become less stable and less potent. So, in this summer of heat waves and power outages, you want to make sure medications stay cool.
• As a rule, drugs should be kept between 68 and 77 degrees. They can go as low as 59 or as high as 86 for only brief periods. Everything from thyroid medications to antihistamines, statins to birth-control pills can fizzle with a summer sizzle.
• Keep meds with you when you fly, not in checked baggage. Never put your meds in a car trunk.
• Replace overheated meds.
BREAST HEALTH TIP
Want to slash your breast cancer risk by up to 30 percent? Get moving. Although vigorous exercise is most effective, you can gain some benefits from moderate activity.
Physical activity lowers specific hormone levels, helps you decrease inflammation and reduces body fat, triggering a chain reaction: less fat, less estrogen and less inflammation equals less cancer risk.