We all know that some foods are more nutritional than others. What you might not realize is that the way you prepare your foods or the combinations that you put together in meals could make a difference in how many of those nutrients are actually absorbed by your body. A good example is the added absorption of vitamin C that you get when you have adequate supplies of vitamin D. These two nutrients work in harmony to build strong bones.
Some foods that work better in pairs than on their own include:
- Spinach and Avocado – To release the vitamin A in spinach
- Tomatoes and Olive Oil – Tomatoes are well-known for their lycopene content, a powerful antioxidant believed to aid in everything from premature aging to prostate cancer prevention. Coating with olive oil ensures better digestion of the lycopene.
- Yogurt and Flaxseed – Flaxseed feeds the probiotics in the yogurt to help it make greater improvements in digestive health.
- Chicken and Sweet Potatoes – Chicken supplies the zinc that is needed to distribute the vitamin A from the sweet potatoes throughout your body.
How to Prepare Your Fruits and Vegetables for Maximum Nutrition
It isn’t just the individual foods you choose or how you mix and match them, but also the way you prepare them that determines how much of their nutrients make it into your body. Eating them raw is almost always the first choice when it comes to getting the most nutritional value from them. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t always a safe or practical choice when you are preparing foods for you and your family.
Onions and garlic are two exceptions to the raw foods rule. Both of these vegetables belong to the same Allium family and they both have unusually high amounts of compounds containing sulfur. The heat from cooking increases or concentrates the amount of sulfur they contain, making the cooked versions even healthier than the raw ones. However, the opposite is true in almost every other case.
When vegetables are steamed, it is usually for a much shorter period of time than they are cooked in other ways. This shorter cooking time helps to preserve more of the nutrients than other cooking methods do. Steam vegetables only as long as needed to make them tender. If mixing vegetables, add those that require the longest amount of time to steam first with the others being added in as appropriate.
Avoid cooking vegetables in water as this automatically means a reduction in the preserved nutrients. When you do use this method, be aware of how long it takes them to get done and remove them from the water as soon as they are. Tenderness is usually the goal for cooking any vegetable, and it should be the primary signal to you that they have cooked long enough.
Getting the Nutrients in Fruit
Never opt for fruit juice when the whole fruit is available—regardless of the juicing method that is used. The majority of the nutrients come from eating the entire fruit. Fruit skins contain flavonoids and carotenoids essential to good health while the pulp is an important source of fiber and vitamin C. One of the many advantages of eating fruits and vegetables is that they don’t require cooking to make them safe or edible!