Modern-day diets are often lacking in nutrition, in large part because food choices are
not optimal. About 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food is for processed foods, which may be fortified with nutrients out of necessity but lack the naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes found in fresh whole foods.
Even the healthy foods you choose, such as an apple or lettuce, are likely not as nutritious as they once were. Ancient wild plants provided an astounding level of phytonutrients that are largely absent from our modern cultivated fruits and veggies.
For instance, wild dandelions contain seven times more phytonutrients thanspinach, and purple potatoes native to Peru contain 28 times more anthocyanins than commonly consumed russet potatoes.1 As written in the New York Times:2
"Studies published within the past 15 years show that much of our produce is relatively low in phytonutrients, which are the compounds with the potential to reduce the risk of four of our modern scourges: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia.
The loss of these beneficial nutrients did not begin 50 or 100 years ago, as many assume. Unwittingly, we have been stripping phytonutrients from our diet since we stopped foraging for wild plants some 10,000 years ago and became farmers."
Industrial farming practices that threaten to completely deplete what was once rich and fertile soil further add to the problem. With each harvest, the land is stripped of vital nutrients plants need to grow, leaving not only lower crop yields but also less nutritious produce.
That being said, you certainly want to harness the nutrients your food doescontain so it can be absorbed and utilized by your body. This starts in your kitchen, where some surprisingly common habits might be slashing the nutrient content of your veggies even more.
10 Surprising Ways You Are Making Your Veggies Less Nutritious
However, lycopene is one example of a nutrient that becomes more bioavailable when it's cooked.
2. Storing Your Lettuce Wrong
Do you store your lettuce leaves whole? You may be better off tearing them before storing them in your refrigerator. When lettuce leaves are torn, a boost of protective phytonutrients are produced.
3. Boiling Your Vegetables
Do you boil vegetables like spinach? This allows valuable nutrients likevitamin C to leach out into the water. If you're looking to prepare a vegetable only, you're better off steaming or lightly sautéing
4. Eating Salad with Fat-Free Dressing
One of the most important toppings on any salad is the dressing, and here you'll want to avoid most store-bought brands, especially those that are low-fat or fat-free.
When fat is removed from a food product, it's usually replaced by sugar/fructose in order to taste good, and this is a recipe for poor health. Excess fructose in your diet drives insulin and leptin resistance, which are at the heart of not only diabetes but most other chronic diseases as well.
Further, some nutrients and antioxidants are fat-soluble, which means you must eat them with fat to properly absorb them. Using a dressing that contains healthy fats helps you ensure maximum nutrient absorption from your salad.
5. Cooking Garlic Without Letting It Rest
Garlic contains the precursors to allicin, which is one of the most potent antioxidants from the plant kingdom. In fact, researchers have determined that sulfenic acid, produced during the rapid decomposition of allicin, reacts with and neutralizes free radicals faster than any other known compound-it's almost instantaneous when the two molecules meet.
Garlic has a robust defense system to protect itself from insects and fungi. It enzymatically produces allicin within seconds when it is injured. The crushing of its tissues causes a chemical reaction between the alliin and the allinase, and allicin is produced-nature's "insecticide." This is what makes garlic such a potent anti-infective.
Allicin is quickly deactivated by heat. Just two minutes on the stovetop or one minute in the microwave will basically eliminate any useful allicin from the garlic. However, if you let chopped garlic sit for 10 minutes before exposing it to heat, the enzyme that creates allicin will have time to finish working, and your finished dish should have a much higher allicin content.
6. Discarding the Most Nutritious Parts of the Vegetable
Many Americans dutifully peel and chop away skins and upper greens on their veggies. Yet, these components often contain the most concentrated sources of nutrients. Try keeping the skins and green tops of fruits and veggies and mixing them into your protein shake or smoothie.
7. Eating Potatoes Right After Cooking Them
I don't recommend eating white potatoes often, as their simple sugars are rapidly converted to glucose that raises insulin levels and can devastate your health. However, if you do choose to eat them at least chill them for about 24 hours after cooking. This converts the starch into a type that's digested slower, and turns this high-glycemic vegetable into a low-glycemic one.
8. Cutting Carrots Prior to Cooking
Resist the urge to chop up your carrots before adding them to soups and casseroles. Research suggests that keeping the carrots whole, and cutting them up after they're cooked, helps retain nutrients. Also, like tomatoes, carrots may be better for you cooked than raw. Cooking helps break down the cell walls so your body has an easier time absorbing nutrients. Further, one study found that cooked carrots had higher levels of beta-carotene and phenolic acids than raw carrots, and the antioxidant activity continued to increase over a period of four weeks.10
9. Buying Broccoli Florets Instead of a Whole Head
Broccoli is one of the healthiest, cancer-fighting veggies you can eat. But it's also surprisingly perishable. One study found that broccoli can lose 75 percent of its flavonoids and 80 percent of its beneficial glucosinolates just 10 days after harvest.11 When the broccoli was cut into florets, the rate of antioxidant loss doubled, so choose fresh, locally grown broccoli in whole-head form for maximum nutrition.
10. Discarding the Cooking Liquid from Beans
Cooking dried beans from scratch is preferable to canned versions because of the potential for BPA in the can linings. However, the cooking liquid will hold much of the nutrients after the beans are done cooking. One trick is to let the beans sit in the liquid for about an hour after cooking to help them reabsorb some of the lost nutrients. Cooking beans in a pressure cooker may also preserve more nutrients than cooking beans using other methods.
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