Trying to get the most nutrition out of your food? That's a really good idea in this day and age.
Below, we'll explain 10 simple ways to squeeze more nutrients from common foods that are probably already in your kitchen and diet.
And don't worry — none of these "food hacks" require hours of work or an advanced science degree. They're just simple, research-based tips that almost anyone can implement at home. Ready?
1. Cook Your Tomatoes
Raw food isn't always more nutritious than cooked food. Tomato paste and tomato sauce, for example, contain more lycopene than raw tomatoes. Cooking actually enhances the lycopene content.1
2. Chop Garlic and Let it Sit for Ten Minutes
This helps to generate allicin, a cancer-fighting compound.2,3 And, if you dare, eat your garlic raw. Cooking literally destroys this beneficial compound!
3. Steam — Don't Boil — Fruits and Vegetables
Steaming, in some cases, may enhance the nutrient content of certain foods (carrots, for example) while boiling destroys it. For this reason, a steam basket is the best way to cook your favorite vegetables.
4. The Smaller the Fruit or Vegetable, the Healthier
As a rule of thumb, smaller fruits and vegetables tend to be more nutritious than their larger counterparts. One great example is cherry tomatoes. They easily beat other tomato varieties when it comes to their lycopene content.4
5. Add a Healthy Source of Fat to Your Salad
If you want to absorb the nutrients from your salad, add vegetable oil or avocado slices. According to research, this helps your body absorb beneficial nutrients, such as beta-carotene.5
6. Don't Discard the Peel!
The peel of fruits and vegetables often contains more nutrients than the flesh itself. The peel of an onion, for example, contains more quercetin, a cancer-fighting antioxidant, than the flesh.6 Save the peel to make vegetable broth. It is packed with nutrients!
7. Add Lemon Juice
Here's a neat little trick: If you add lemon juice to green tea, it enhances the absorption of catechins, the beneficial antioxidants found in green tea.7 Lemon juice also helps to prevent avocados, apples, and bananas from browning.
8. Add Probiotics
Probiotics nourish your gut with beneficial bacteria that not only help the absorption of nutrients, but also convert them into disease-fighting compounds. An example is found in flax seeds. Gut bacteria convert beneficial flax lignans into enterodiol and enterolactone, two compounds that fight hormone-related cancers.8,9
9. Don't Buy Pulp-Free Juices!
The pulp from fruit contains beneficial fiber and antioxidants. Orange pulp, for example, is a great source of heart-healthy naringin and hesperidin.10
10. Choose Purple Foods Often
Our favorite fruits and vegetables often come in different colors. For example, you'll find white potatoes and purple potatoes, green kale and purple kale, and so forth. The purple color is a reflection of their higher anthocyanin-content.
Research shows purple potatoes contain more polyphenols than conventional kinds, and they're less likely to increase blood sugar levels.11 Try them if you can find them at your local supermarket!
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- Food Funct. 2014 May;5(5):909-15.