You spend your hard-earned money buying organic produce, your precious free time hitting the gym, and countless hours researching which beauty products have the safest ingredients. Living a healthy lifestyle is hard; but it doesn’t always have to be complicated. Make all of your effort worthwhile by making sure you are getting as many nutrients out of your food as possible. Get ready to slice and dice your way to plenty of nutrients.
1. Eat fresh and local
Freshly-picked produce has loads of nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins, but they start to diminish with each passing day after being picked. This is why purchasing locally-grown produce will give you the best chance at getting more nutrients. Sometimes produce is shipped from all over the world, which means it’s possible that you could be eating produce that is weeks old. Try to make it to the farmer’s market once a week and buy produce that is in season and grown locally to ensure you are getting the freshest produce possible.
2. Eat frozen
We may have just said to eat fresh produce, but frozen has its merits, too — sometimes even more than fresh. Because fresh produce needs to last longer, sometimes it is picked before it’s fully ripe. Store-bought frozen produce is allowed to fully ripen and then is frozen right away, locking in the nutrients. If you have an overflowing herb garden or purchased too much fresh produce, freeze it right away and defrost when you are ready to eat.
3. Chop, dice, and slice
Cutting fruits and vegetables generally frees nutrients by breaking down rigid plant cell walls. When you chop up an onion it releases alliinase, an enzyme that helps form a nutrient that can protect against disease when eaten. Soaking grains and beans reduces phytic acid, which blocks your absorption of iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium.
4. Store food properly
To prolong the life of your fruits, vegetables, and herbs you have to store them properly. That does not mean throwing everything in the fridge. All fruits, except berries, should be stored at room temperature away from direct light. All vegetables, except those of the root variety, need to stay in the refrigerator. Herbs should be chopped up and frozen in an ice cube tray with water or olive oil until you are ready to cook with them. To prolong the freshness of already cut up fruits and vegetables, squeeze a little lemon juice on them and store in an airtight container.
5. Know what to cook and what to eat raw
The raw food movement may have spread the notion that raw food is better for you, but certain foods are better off cooked. Foods like brussels sprouts, sunflower seeds, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, avocado, spinach, and bell peppers are best eaten raw to maximize absorption of water-soluble nutrients. If you cook them, do so on low heat without exposing them to too much water by steaming or roasting.
But, raw is not always the way to go. If you cook tomatoes, more of the cancer-fighting lycopene is released, and cooking foods rich in beta-carotene helps increase the bioavailability of the nutrient. Of course you already know you have to cook meats and eggs to avoid food poisoning, but it also helps make them easier to digest.
6. Pair foods properly
It’s not always about what you eat, but what you eat it with. Iron from plant sources known as non-heme iron is not as easily absorbed as heme iron, which is found in animal foods. To help absorb the iron from plant-based food, pair it with vitamin-C rich foods. Vitamin C can help the plant let go of the mineral, and can block other dietary compounds that can inhibit absorption. Iron and zinc should be paired with foods rich in sulfur. Sulfur binds to those particular minerals and helps you absorb them better. Zinc-rich foods like beef and turkey should be eaten with garlic or onions.
7. Spice it up
Adding your favorite spice to a meal may just seem like a way to add some extra flavor, but it can also add a lot of antioxidants. Just 1/2 teaspoon of ground clove is said to contain more antioxidants than 1/2 cup of blueberries, and a teaspoon of oregano equals the same amount of antioxidants found in a whole cup of sweet potatoes.
8. Eat the Rainbow
If you tend to favor leafy greens or sweet, red fruit, consider mixing things up. The color in fruits and vegetables comes from naturally-occurring micronutrients such as vitamins and phytonutrients. By eating a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables, you will get more nutrients in your diet without even trying.