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Try new healthy foods in 2011

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The start of a new year marks the perfect opportunity to revisit familiar menu routines and jump-start healthy eating patterns. Adding a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your plate will not only boost overall nutrition in your diet, but also broaden your culinary horizons. Instead of just trying to find new recipes for the same familiar ingredients, try expanding your palate by incorporating some foods you don't routinely eat. We are very fortunate to have such a variety of affordable fruit and vegetables available year-round, so we should take advantage of them.

In the spirit of new beginnings in a new year I am going to recommend 11 healthy foods you may try, or rediscover if you have not tried them lately. This list will just be a starting point to whet your appetite for further healthy food discoveries. Why 11 healthy foods? Because 11 is kind of a lonely and neglected number, but it is a number we will be using frequently this year and I will give it some added attention.

I will discuss a new food each week over 11 weeks, and will begin with sardines. Sardines are an overlooked supermarket offering, but they are an unassuming nutritional powerhouse. Whether canned or fresh, they are loaded with protein, calcium, vitamin D, and especially omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids, which promote anti-inflammatory pathways, lower triglyceride levels, and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. Canned sardines can be used in the same ways as canned tuna, and fresh sardines are easily grilled or broiled.

So, try starting 2011 with old-fashion, very healthy sardines.