The human body is composed of trillions of cells charged with performing millions of complex biochemical activities every second of our lives. These activities cannot be accomplished without the hundreds of nutrients necessary to keep us healthy and fight disease.

Even a deficiency in one nutrient can wreak havoc on our health and lead to serious diseases. A healthy diet consists of an abundance of fresh vegetables eaten raw or briefly cooked, whole grains, lentils, and beans, nuts, poultry, fish and eggs, fruits eaten in moderation, six to eight glasses of water per day, and little or no red meat.

On the other hand, consuming health felons, namely sodas, sugar, artificial sweeteners and additives, white flour, fried food, full-fat dairy and snacking on junk food should be avoided.

However, as you prepare meals and snacks, consciously use a wide range of ingredients from meal to meal and day to day to achieve maximum nutritional intake. For example: A raw fresh vegetable salad is one of the pillars of a wholesome cuisine, dense with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, and fiber. The basis of such a salad can be a bed of salad greens (Romaine lettuce, spinach and/or arugula).

On different days incorporate two or more of the following components into your salad: cucumber, grated carrot, sliced radishes, tomato, olives, bean sprouts, red or green onion, avocado, sunflower seeds, or crumbled feta cheese. Salad dressings, made in two minutes in the salad bowl before adding the veggies, greatly boost a salad’s nutritional value and flavor. Make a basic vinaigrette dressing from extra virgin olive oil, wine vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper. For variety you can add a finely grated garlic clove, dried or fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley, or basil), grated ginger root, or finely grated red radish. Such dressings can also be used for cold whole grain or pasta dishes.

Nutrition-rich whole grains, including pasta, are extremely versatile and offer endless possibilities for any hot or cold meal. Vary the grains you use: oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, millet, bulgur, etc. You can mix cooked grains with a sauce or a dressing, chunks of chicken, cooked or raw vegetables. And like an artist using the full spectrum of the color palette, you have a vast array of nutritious flavor heroes at your disposal, produced with vegetables, herbs, spices and fruits.

Judy E. Buss is a nutritional cooking instructor, blogger for the American Holistic Health Association and speaker.

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