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Berries help prevent heart attacks, but clean before eating

  • Published Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, at 12 a.m.

The Greek goddess Aphrodite was broken-hearted when she heard Adonis had perished. Myth has it her tears fell to earth as red hearts, and strawberries were created. This oh-so-good-for-you fruit delivers a phytonutrient called anthocyanins that can help slash your risk of a broken heart. Ironic, no? Eating berries three times a week helps prevent heart attack.

But you want to get berry benefits without risking a tummy ache, diarrhea or worse. Berries, along with leafy greens, potatoes, tomatoes and sprouts, are the fresh produce most likely to trigger food-borne illness. That’s because they can harbor salmonella, norovirus, E. coli and other troublemakers if produce is exposed to contaminated water or mishandled during processing or shipping. Fruits and veggies also can pick up these bugs in your kitchen if you don’t store or cook them correctly, or if they come in contact with raw meat or seafood. So … wash your hands for 20 seconds before and after handling produce.

Cut away discolored or soft spots and outside or wilted leaves. Skip the sprouts unless cooked. Wash produce in running water – no soap or disinfectant – even if you’re going to peel or cook it. Dry to further remove contaminants.

Scrub firm produce like melons, potatoes or cucumbers with a vegetable brush. Dry well. Store all produce in the fridge at 40 F.

Cooking produce to 160 F, for even a few seconds, will kill parasites, viruses and most bacteria. Take extra care when cooking potatoes (or keeping them warm) in aluminum foil; it’s a greenhouse for microorganisms.

Happy, healthy humidifiers

South America’s Atacama Desert, a 41,000-square-mile expanse stretching from Peru to Chile, gets 4 inches of rain every thousand years. And you thought your house got dry in the wintertime.

To get rid of your indoor desert, use a room humidifier. If you don’t have one, get one; that’s doctors’ orders. Heating systems can drive relative humidity below 10 percent, and for optimal comfort and health, you want relative humidity at 30 to 50 percent. The added moisture from a humidifier can ease dry, itchy skin and irritated nasal passages, quiet down a snoring bedmate and help break up congestion.

But if you don’t keep ultrasonic and cool-mist humidifiers clean, they become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold, and disperse microorganisms and minerals from their water into the air. So, make sure you keep your humidifier healthy so that you stay healthy, too.

1. Use humidifiers with removable tanks that can be emptied and cleaned. Empty standing water once a day.

2. Twice a week, wash the tank with a 3 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide, or a three-to-one mixture of distilled water and vinegar. Let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse several times with tap water.

3. Fill only with distilled water. Even if you use filtered water, the mist may contain minerals that get inhaled and trigger respiratory problems.

4. Avoid disinfectants that you leave in the water tank. Variations of some marketed in North American have proved dangerous for children to breathe. Stick with elbow grease.

5. Change filters regularly; never let them develop discoloration or mold.

Smell the fat

Wonder Woman, Superman and Spider-man use their superpowers for good to aid seemingly helpless humans in their time of need. But believe it or not, you have what you need to save yourself from one of the biggest dangers to your existence – not an asteroid, an invisible force field or an evil twin, but artery-clogging, brain-fogging, love-cooling fat. Your weapon for self-defense? Your nose.

A new set of studies demonstrates that you can sniff out the fat content in foods, whether you're overweight or normal weight, male or female, young or old. Your all-too-neglected olfactory sense can be one more tool to help you avoid unhealthy foods and weight gain. So how can you cultivate your fat-sniffing powers?

• Try an at-home fat-sniffing test. Sniff the difference between a pat of butter, a tablespoon of canola oil, and a french fry. Notice the heaviness of the butter and the french-fry smell? See how much lighter the canola oil is?

• The dynamic duo of Healthy Aromas and Good Tastes are also packed with smells, strong and subtle. Check them out, too. Cilantro, cabbage, onions, broccoli, green peppers and mushrooms have distinct and pleasing aromas.

Now take what you’ve learned out into the world. Pay attention to different food smells. Learn to identify those that are healthy and those that are not.

You’ll know you’ve mastered your super-healthy power of smell when the scent of frying bacon conjures up images of wrinkles or impotence, which is what’s caused by eating bacon fat.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

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