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Are You Making Your Food Less Nutritious?

You may be eating healthy foods but that does not mean you are getting the nutrition you need. These bad habits can make food less nutritious.
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 “Don’t boil your vegetables.”

“Don’t ever microwave your food.”

“Eat as much of your food raw as possible.”

“Grilling is the healthiest food preparation method.”

“Grilling will give you cancer.”

“Fresh vegetables are better than frozen.”

Confused yet?

There are hundreds of food preparation methods, but not all of them are healthy. Aside from the obviously unhealthy frying of foods, many home chefs are confused on what the best preparation method is, and even on what part of a vegetable or fruit is healthiest.

If you have been in the food prep confusion boat, prepare to get out, because we’re sharing the science behind the best food preparation methods to maximize the nutritional content of food and fight common health dangers such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and acne.

How to Maximize the Nutritional Content of Food

Different foods have different idea preparation methods. No one-size-fits-all approach will work on every food to maximize nutrition. Some vegetables have almost all nutrients removed by cooking, but others have nutrients that are enhanced by cooking.

Because there is such variety in optimal food preparation methods, each nutrient and food requires a customized approach.

Eat Tomatoes Cooked

According to a 2002 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, when tomatoes are cooked, both their lycopene content and antioxidant content are boosted. Lycopene and antioxidants are known for their ability to fight cancer, so make sure that you get as many cooked tomatoes in your diet as possible.

Lycopene is also linked with a reduction in stroke risk. In the study, when tomatoes were cooked, their lycopene content increased by up to 164 percent. Other antioxidants rose up to 62 percent. The longer the tomatoes cooked, the more nutritious they were.

Eat Vegetables with Fat

Most vegetables contain fat-soluble nutrients. Without fat, fat-soluble nutrients cannot be absorbed by the body. Healthy fats, like cheese, butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and nut oils can be used as a salad dressing and provide the bit of fat that is necessary to absorb these nutrients.

Additionally, if you use a dressing that is fat-free, often the manufacturers replace fat with sugar, effectively ensuring you are eating candied vegetables, which is about as healthy as it sounds. Even adding ingredients like eggs, avocado, or meat can increase the absorption of the nutrients found in a salad.

Let Garlic Rest

Garlic is extremely healthy for you and provides nutrients and anti-inflammatory effects. However, cooked garlic is not nearly as beneficial as raw, but there is one way to work around this issue. According to studies, garlic contains allicin which is one of the most powerful antioxidants.

Research shows that allicin can neutralize free radicals faster than any other known compound. However, when garlic is chopped and cooked, these effects are diminished. However, when garlic is smashed (such as by using a garlic press), the allicin is released.

Allowing the garlic to rest after it has been crushed for about 10 minutes maximizes the allicin content even if you cook it afterward. The effects of allicin are reduced about one hour after the garlic is crushed, so always try to use fresh garlic in your recipes and add it to food raw, when your taste buds can handle it.

Eat Neglected Foods

Did you know that there are tons of nutrients in foods you probably never eat? Vegetable peels, for example, often contain more nutrients than the vegetables themselves. Organ meat and bones contains nutrients that you can never get from eating muscle meat. Because of this, “whole food” eating is becoming more popular. Individuals try to consume as many parts of food as they can- just like our ancestors did hundreds of years ago. It is only recently that humans have avoided eating every part of a food, which has been largely to our detriment.

According to journalist Jo Robinson, author of Eating on the Wild Side, some of the most nutrient-rich foods include:

Nutrient-Rich Food Scraps
  • Dark green scallions
  • Beet greens
  • Carrot skins
  • Apple peel
  • Potato peel
  • Watermelon rind
  • Animal skin
  • Organ meats

Microwave Vegetables

The use of the microwave in the kitchen is hotly debated. Some people believe that eating anything out of the microwave is the fastest way to kill you, while others state that the cooking method is harmless. Because there was so much debate over the issue, food scientist Catherine Adams Hutt tested the nutritional content of foods cooked in the microwave versus foods cooked on the stove.

She found that when the microwave is used as a steaming tool, the vegetables retain more nutrients than when they were cooked using grilling or boiling. Steaming the vegetables on the stove also retained more nutrients.

For best results, seal the container of vegetables with a small amount of water in the bottom to create a steamer. Consume the liquid along with the vegetables for even more nutrient intake.

Choose Frozen Produce

Frozen produce may have more nutrients than most canned vegetables and even fresh produce purchased from a store (fresh vegetables from a garden, on the other hand, may still contain more nutrients).

A 2007 study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that, comparatively, frozen produce held its nutritional value over other storage methods (except in levels of vitamin C, which degraded over time no matter the storage method).

Eat Canned Beans

Beans are powerful source of nutrients such as protein and antioxidants. Adams Hutt found that when she studied beans, canned beans actually had more antioxidants than prepared dried beans. Beans lose a lot of their nutrients into the surrounding liquid, and over time, beans will re-absorb the liquid surrounding them, so this could be one reason why canned beans retain more nutrients. If you still want to eat fresh beans due to concerns of BPA contamination, eat them as a soup along with the cooking liquid.

Avoid Boiling Foods

Boiled vegetables tend to lose a lot of their nutrients into the surrounding liquid. If you are going to boil vegetables, make sure to eat them as a soup so that you are consuming the delicious nutrients along with the vegetables themselves. You can also try steaming or sautéing the vegetables instead of boiling. Roasting vegetables in the oven is almost as simple as boiling them and the loss of nutrients is significantly less.

Tear Your Lettuce

Adams Hutt found one unusual trick to increase the nutrient power of lettuce. According to studies, when lettuce is torn, it releases protective phytonutrients that have beneficial effects in humans. Tear your lettuce rather than cutting it before placing it in a salad. You can also try tearing your lettuce before storing it in the refrigerator. The beneficial effects of the phytonutrients last for up to two days in the refrigerator after tearing the leaves.

Eat Organic Foods

According to researchers, the nutrient content in our food has slowly devolved over the past several thousand years due to crop farming. Similar to how purebred puppies are weaker than mutts, food continually re-grown from the same line weakens over time. However, eating organic produce and foods can negate some of this problem.

According to a 2014 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, organic produce found that although the vitamin content is about the same in conventional and organic foods, the antioxidant content of organic foods is up to 40 percent greater. That is a pretty big incentive to switch to organic foods even if you are not worried about consuming pesticides.

The researchers theorized that plants create more antioxidants as a defense against natural predators and disease. Organic produce has to fight harder to live, which gives it a natural boost in disease-fighting antioxidants.

Eat the Rainbow

Although eating greens is a large part of a healthy diet, to maximize nutrient consumption, a wide range of colors should be eaten. All colors of vegetables and fruit have specific nutrients that offer different benefits to humans. Eating a diet of colorful produce is an easy way to ensure you get enough nutrients each day. If you are eating to clear and prevent acne, look for foods that are high in zinc, vitamin A, selenium, vitamin E, and MSM.

Spice Things Up

Spices are one of the most powerful sources of nutrients in the world today. Because we eat them in such small amounts, the benefits are often ignored. However, fresh herbs and spices provide some of the biggest protection against inflammation, cancer, blood sugar spikes, high cholesterol, and other common health conditions.

Grow Your Own Foods

Even if you have the smallest yard, there is still benefit from growing food at home. Foods that you grow on your own have fewer pesticides, taste better, and provide more nutrients than anything you can buy at a store. If you use heirloom seeds, you will have even greater nutrient benefits as their nutrient profiles are not as diluted as common varieties of seeds.

You Can Maximize the Nutrient Content of Food

Today’s foods are not as nutritious as foods grown in past centuries. However, with a little forethought, you can maximize the nutrient content of what is available to eat today. With a little extra effort, you can ensure that you not only are eating enough fruits and vegetables, but also that you are eating them the right way to maximize your personal benefit from these nutrients. When you find the right balance of nutrients, you will solve many common health conditions today, such as thyroid problems, high cholesterol, blood sugar imbalances, anxiety disorders, and even acne.

Sources


http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyCooking/Healthier-Preparation-Methods-for-Cooking_UCM_301484_Article.jsp

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/21/health/upwave-microwaving-food/ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11982434

http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/7-nutrient-packed-animal-organs

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