By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
My biggest companion, besides my family and work, is food. I snack constantly. My snacks yield not only fewer calories, they taste awesome and provide health benefits. Here is my list.
1. Bananas with virgin olive oil
Most people consider bananas bland and uninteresting, unless you think of banana split. But there’s too much sugar in ice cream and that translates into loads of calories. Fried banana is a popular dessert, too. Once fried, you destroy the vital nutrients in the fruit.
Eating too much greasy foods increases your risk of heart disease.
I eat a banana every day because it is essential for my health. I’ll explain its health benefits later. What if you can make a plain banana taste super great?
Mix a banana with extra virgin olive oil. You may think it sounds strange. No one taught me to do this. But I love to experiment with food. The oil by itself is bitter and pungent. It taunts your tongue and throat. It’s hard to swallow. Yet, when the fruit is soaked in the virgin oil, its texture and flavors are transformed. It becomes miraculously great. My husband is now a believer. That’s what he does with his breakfast. Gone is his habit of using slices of banana in his cereal with milk.
Why extra virgin olive oil? It is a key ingredient in the Mediterranean diet, which aids longevity. It is considered to be one of the best fats. Keep in mind, never cook with extra virgin olive oil. It will produce negative chemical reactions if you heat it. Just dip the bananas in olive oil like you mix it with your salads.
Bananas supply our bodies with magnesium and potassium. Besides being an antioxidant support, magnesium serves many vital functions in your body. Magnesium helps to regulate muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. If your body is low in magnesium, you develop insomnia. Potassium is in charge of over 300 bodily functions. Low potassium in your body could lead to headaches, constipation, depression, bloating, muscle weakness, heart palpitations, and more.
If you shop for bananas, I recommend you get the organic kind. It’s not that much more compared to regular bananas, but it will be much better for your body.
2. Pumpkin seeds
By itself, pumpkin seeds are quite bland. But if you are hungry, you can eat a lot without getting fat. One full cup of pumpkin seeds is about 285 calories. I eat two to three batches at a time, and they never amount to 50 calories. The seeds also have zero cholesterol. The same thing with cashew nuts and walnuts if you buy them unsalted and unroasted. But pumpkin seeds have much fewer calories than other nuts. I bought an 8 ounce bag of pumpkin seeds a few months ago, and I still have them. They are a good source of iron and zinc, which maintains a healthy metabolism of your body. It can also help you build muscle, and regulates blood sugar levels. Chia seeds and sunflower seeds are recommended, too. Chia seeds are absolutely tasteless and they look weird. Sunflower seeds are said to be polluted. So I pick pumpkin seeds.
3. Apples, avocados, oranges, peaches, green grapes, watermelons
I frequently ask myself: Do those foods give me health benefits or make me sick? My goal is to make myself feel good so I can function better every day. Fruits definitely provide me with nutrients.
If I don’t eat at least three different kinds of fruits every day, I would feel deprived. I eat apples and avocados at least three times a week.
I drink organic orange juice daily. The aforementioned fruits give me energy, health, and it fills my stomach. Those fruits prevent me from stuffing myself with junk food when I am hungry.
We are lucky in Washington state to be surrounded by varieties of fresh fruit. When you want to consume a piece of bread, reach for fruits instead. It will change not only your health, but your mindset.
Grape tomatoes are my favorite kind of tomatoes. I can’t finish a big tomato, but I can nibble all day with baby tomatoes. What’s not to love? Fewer calories, they taste wonderful, and it’s good for your skin. They are good to eat raw, you don’t have to cook them.
Although some studies say cooked tomatoes can release an anti-cancer chemical, I am addicted to juicy sweet tomatoes. They are great for snacks. I prefer to eat them right after I get them from the grocery store. If I leave them in the fridge, I tend to forget about them for days.
5. Peanut butter
I love to scoop up peanut butter from a jar and then savor it in my mouth. You have no idea how satisfying that is. I don’t want a peanut butter sandwich. The truth is, I don’t want carbs. I just want to eat it plain. Eating teaspoonfuls slowly is delightful. And I would relish them in my tongue for a long time. That’s pure joy!
6. Dark chocolate
Notice I wrote dark chocolate. It contains flavonoids, which contribute to health and longevity. Milk chocolate has too much sugar. I love dark chocolate cake. But I don’t want to eat it often. My self-discipline is decent. Even though I can afford to have it, I would eat it only once every few months. When our family celebrates birthdays and anniversaries, chocolate cake is my favorite dessert.
At home, I have all kinds of dark chocolate. From dark chocolate with almonds to Godiva, I have them at my fingertips. Still, I consume no more than three small pieces a day. I don’t miss other kinds of candies or sweets, which would be terrible for my health.
Buy yourself chocolate if you feel down. Chocolate is a mood booster. I cannot live without them at home. They are also pleasing treats for the Northwest Asian Weekly staff.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.