If you can get maximum goodness out of your vegetables your body will thank you for it.
You are probably already being sensible and eating healthily. But maybe you're not maximising the nutritional benefits of what you consume. So, here are three easy ways to help your body absorb more nutrients from your food.
Cook carefully: Some micronutrients are water-soluble and heat sensitive, especially the B vitamins and vitamin C. The latter can be reduced by as much as 50 percent by boiling. Steaming vegetables, on the other hand, only reduces the vitamin C content by 15 percent and microwaving by 20 percent. Stir-frying is another good option as there is no water involved and the cooking time is generally quite short.
B vitamins are abundant in meat but up to 60 percent can be lost when cooked and the juices run out, so be sure the cooking juices are poured back over the meat when rested.
Conversely, cooking can increase the level of some other nutrients. Lycopene, a plant compound with antioxidant properties, increases by 25 percent when tomatoes are cooked, and the bioavailability (the extent to which a nutrient can be absorbed by the body) of beta-carotene, found in red, orange and yellow plants like tomatoes, peppers, carrots and sweet potatoes, is also increased by cooking. These vegetables lend themselves very well to roasting in the oven.
Keep the skin on: Cutting up raw fruits and vegetables just before eating helps break down the cell walls, which makes the nutrients contained within the cells more easily available. If food is cooked, it’s better to cut it up after cooking as less will have been exposed to heat and water, which can reduce the nutrient content. And don’t peel fruit and veg unless you have to, as fewer nutrients will be lost if the skins are kept on.
Play food pairs: The bioavailability of certain nutrients is increased when paired with other foods. For example, vitamins A, D, E and K (found in a wide-range of foods) are fat-soluble, so including healthy fats like nuts, avocado or olive oil in our meals is important to ensure they are absorbed.
To increase your uptake of iron from foods like red meat, leafy greens, shellfish and legumes, pair with vitamin C from berries, citrus fruit, tomatoes and peppers. And vitamin D – which we mainly get from the sun on our skin but which is also found in oily fish, eggs and mushrooms – aids the absorption of calcium, found in dairy products, tofu and leafy green vegetables.
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