Preparing Food for Maximum Nutrition
Did you know that how we prepare our foods can affect its vitamin content and bioavailability? There are a few ways you can make sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need.
Some micronutrients are most available and best absorbed when foods are eaten raw, while others are more available and best absorbed when first cooked, crushed/cut, or eaten with other foods.
Water soluble vitamins can be lost in water and storage. These vitamins include the B vitamins and vitamin C. Examples of foods with these vitamins would be broccoli, peas, kale, cauliflower, bell peppers, and Brussels sprouts. These are generally best eaten raw or cooked with low heat. The best methods to preserve water soluble vitamins include blanching, steaming, sauteing, roasting and microwaving.
Then there are foods that deliver the most nutrients when cooked. Lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, significantly increases after being boiled. By cooking eggs and meat, protein is denatured, making them much more digestible. Cooking can help break down plants’ cell walls for digestion, which can be helpful for foods such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and spinach. Cooking these foods also significantly increase the bioavailability of beta carotene, another antioxidant.
Crushing and chopping onion and garlic releases an enzyme that helps form a nutrient called allicin. Allicin, when eaten, helps form other compounds that may protect us against disease.
Pairing certain foods together can maximize nutrient absorption. Eating foods with fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K with dietary fats will help get the vitamins ready for absorption. For example, sweet potatoes, carrots, eggs, mushrooms, asparagus, spinach, and broccoli would pair well with healthy fats such as mixed nuts, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, or butter. Adding lemon juice, orange slices, strawberries or chili peppers to spinach, kale, soybeans and lentils will help with iron absorption.
Don’t let this information overwhelm you. Consuming a wide variety of whole foods is the most important thing. Keeping in mind how you prepare them for consumption can just improve your nutrient intake a bit more.