Maximize the taste and health benefits of your food with these nutritionist-approved tips for storing, cooking, and savoring it.
Does anyone really fancy a January salad? It’s unlikely, but it’s a new year and the perfect time to get your diet back on track.
Around 73% of British adults don’t get five a day, and when we eat fresh fruits and vegetables we often miss out on minerals and vitamins because of the way we have stored or prepared them.
Karen Patel, registered dietitian and founder of Dietitian Fit & Co.
So how do you maximize the nutrient content of your dinner?
Replace the carrots with kohlrabi
Try not to always pick up the same old bags of carrots and potatoes—if you’re bored with them, your gut will, too.
“Introducing new ingredients and new foods brings new nutrients and properties to your body,” says Julia Rodriguez-Garcia, assistant professor of food science and nutrition at the University of Reading.
“It’s good to have this variety, as different products contain different nutrients and complement each other in your diet throughout the week.”
This time of year, try persimmons, sharon fruits (eat them as you would an apple), and kohlrabi, which is part of the cabbage family (roast, steam, sauté or grate raw for coleslaw).
Make the most of the freezer aisle – there’s a lot of good out there. “Vegetables like peas are frozen immediately after harvesting, which retain about 95% of their nutrients, with the exception of vitamin C, which is rapidly depleted in all fruits and vegetables regardless of whether they are frozen or frozen,” says Rob Hobson, Head of Nutrition at Healthspan.
“This means in some cases you may be getting more nutrients from frozen fruit or vegetables versus a fresh variety that has spent time in transit, or has sat on supermarket shelves.”
Fruit on the roll? “Chop it up, squeeze it over some lemon juice and freeze it. This will retain the nutritional content available at the point of freezing,” adds Karen.
Buy with your eyes
Prices may be amazing right now, but make sure you look at the food you’re buying and read the label.
Karen explains: “It is best to choose locally grown fruits and vegetables that are in season, because they start to lose many vitamins as soon as they are picked.
Buy foods raw, not previously cooked. Always read the expiration date to make sure you’re buying the freshest produce.
“Check if the vegetables have lost water by seeing if they have a white coating, as this means that some of the nutrients have started to decrease.”
Put your finger on the pulses
Hit the legume aisle. “Canned groceries are great. Julia says they provide a huge amount of minerals and fiber and are really good vegan protein products.
When you think of fruits and vegetables, try to include pulses like green lentils, chickpeas, and butterbeans — not just baked beans.
“They’re very good and have a lot of minerals—iron, fiber, protein—it’s a really complete ingredient.”
Speaking of fiber, Julia adds that not only does it help regulate appetite, but it also “helps a lot with the rate of digestion, slowing down the process so the body can respond and absorb nutrients.”
Cut them off
Put your knife skills to work. “Cutting out certain vegetables like celery and parsnips can increase levels of polyphenols, an antioxidant that protects against inflammation and helps with high blood pressure,” says Karine.
Size matters too, Rob adds: “Chop your vegetables into larger pieces, as smaller pieces will increase the surface area of the vegetables exposed to nutrient-damaging light and heat.”
Scientist Tim Spector’s first tip is to chop vegetables rich in sulforaphane (a chemical that helps fight cancer cells and manage cholesterol), such as onions, garlic, broccoli, and cabbage, and then let them sit for 10 minutes.
This activates the sulforaphane, so it will survive the cooking process and get into your body.
Learning to cook (or not to cook)
Some things are better than being hot. “Cooked tomatoes contain more cancer-fighting lycopene, and cooking carrots and sweet potatoes can increase their beta-carotene content—AKA vitamin A, which supports immune function,” says Karen.
Better to keep others away from the oven. Most fruits contain high levels of B vitamins and vitamin C, and are water-soluble and brittle when heated, so avoid cooking them or placing them in water to preserve most of them.
of their nutrients.” Adds Rob: “Watch the time you cook food because, in general, the longer you cook food, the more nutrients you will lose.
Get in the habit of eating whole vegetables, which require less cooking time.
Boil everything by default? Think again. “Up to half of the vitamin B, C and folic acid can be lost in the water in which you cook vegetables,” Rob says.
“Try to retain as many nutrients as possible by steaming or stir-frying. You can reuse the steaming water to make rice and sauces, as it will contain nutrients that have been leached from the vegetables.”
Using a basket steamer means you can cook more vegetables using less water and energy too – keep the lid on tightly and lower the temperature slightly for even more savings.
Don’t flog them
We’re not saying never eat banana peels (although some people swear by using them in curries), but it’s time to stop peeling so much.
“The rind, or rind, of fruits usually contains more vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber than the flesh,” says Karine.
“You can eat the peel of kiwis, apples, and peaches—in fact, the skin of a kiwi is richer in vitamin C and fiber than the flesh! The skin of citrus fruits can be eaten as the peel or cooked.”
The same applies to root vegetables and potatoes – leave the skin on, just rub it before eating.
eating a “whole” diet
Karen warns that there are some fruits and vegetables that we don’t really get the benefit of, and we put half of them without thinking. For example, the pineapple core is tough, but just as nutritious as the pulp. Likewise, reserve the tops of carrots, radishes, beets and leeks.
Just be sure to wash them well before adding them to your salad or soup. Watermelon peels are edible and safe to eat, as they are high in fiber and contain citrulline, an amino acid that can improve libido and exercise performance.
Also, broccoli stems taste delicious raw or in soup. Slice or peel the coarse outer part of the main stem of broccoli and consume the tender inner part. Similarly, the stems and leaves of cauliflower are edible and packed with fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins.
Meet your match
Some foods match perfectly, and not just because of their taste. “Combine food to maximize absorption,” Karine suggests.
For example, fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E, and K found in sweet potatoes and carrots (Vitamin A), eggs and salmon (Vitamin D), and spinach (Vitamin E and K) are absorbed better with fats such as avocado or olive oil. Olives or nuts, which are better for you than saturated fats.Vitamin C helps
Iron absorption, which supports red blood cells, so eat foods rich in non-heme iron (plant sources of iron) with a source of vitamin C.
For example, have lentils with tomatoes, or pair spinach with strawberries in a smoothie.”