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When Beauty Food Backfires

It’s possible to get too much of a good thing, even with healthy food.

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Avocados
They’re not just for whipping up a mean guacamole to pair with frozen margaritas. Avocados are a tasty fruit (yes, a fruit) that you can toss into salads and add to sandwiches. “They are high in monounsaturated fats, a healthy type of fat that has been shown to reduce belly fat,” says Glassman. “Avocados can also make your hair shiny and your skin glow.” What’s more, they’re full of fiber, potassium and folate—nutrients that are often lacking in our diet, according to Kirkpatrick—as well as vitamins C and E.

How it can backfire: Although avocados contain healthy fats, it’s still fat. “If you are watching your weight, avocado calories can add up fast,” says Glassman. “Couple that with chips if you are eating guac and hello, overindulgence! The good news is that a little bit of avocado goes a long way since avocados are high in fat and fiber—a satisfying nutrient combo.”

How much to eat: Stick to a serving, which is about ¼ of a whole avocado, which contains five grams of fat and 56 calories. Craving guac? Take half of an avocado, mix it with fresh salsa in a small ramekin (or small bowl) and enjoy with baked pita chips.

QUIZ: What's Your Eating Style?

Fish
Fish are swimmingly good for your health. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, preventing heart disease, cancer and arthritis, according to Glassman. “They have also been coined as a brain food, enhancing memory and overall cognitive functioning,” she says.

How it can backfire: So what’s the catch? Certain types of fish contain high levels of mercury, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. “In high concentrations, mercury can cause problems in childbirth and can harm the nervous system, leading to developmental disorders especially in children,” says Glassman. Some fish—especially fatty fish, large fish that eat many other fish and those caught near industrial areas—may also contain pollutants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which may be carcinogenic in humans and have been shown to disrupt immune function.

How much to eat: Up to 12 ounces of fish per week. One serving size is three or four ounces (the size of a deck of cards). Popular fish that are low in mercury include canned light tuna, salmon, shrimp, pollock and catfish. “Stick with wild fish over farm-raised,” says Kirkpatrick. “You won’t get as much PCBs.” If you’re pregnant, talk to your physician first and steer clear of high-mercury fish such as swordfish, king mackerel and tile fish. Check out the mercury levels of your favorite fish at www.seafoodwatch.org so you can make educated decisions when perusing the menu or the fish counter.

MORE: Is There Something Fishy About Your Sushi?

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