How to select and prepare vegetables for maximum benefit? Nutrition Diva explains.
Nutrition Diva listener Jen writes,
"I have spent many hours researching how to get the most nutrition from the fruits and vegetables I eat. I understand that vitamins can be destroyed by cooking, but I have also heard that cooking can increase some nutrients. I've also read that eating vegetables with certain foods can enhance the absorption of various nutrients. Can you give me a list of the best cooking methods and food pairings for all the various vegetables? I want to get the most bang for my buck.".
Jen is absolutely right on all counts:
- Cooking can decrease certain nutrients, especially water soluble vitamins like vitamin C.
- Some nutrients, such as the lycopene in tomatoes, are made more bioavailable by cooking.
- You can increase your absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as beta-carotene, by eating them with avocados, olive oil, or other healthy fats.
- Fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C can increase your absorption of iron from foods they're eaten with.
And so on.
Over the years, I've discussed all of these topics in various podcasts. (Click on the blue words above to see more on each topic.) I could have simply referred Jen to the show archives to dig up the details. Or, I could have spent the week compiling a database of fruits and vegetables, which nutrients they contain, the best ways to cook each one, and the best foods to eat them with. I know lots of you would have raced to your computers to print that list out and stick it to your refrigerator door.
It's not necessary to wring every last microgram of nutrition out of every vegetable we eat in order to enjoy the health benefits and disease protection that a vegetable-rich diet has to offer.
I did not compile such a list. For one thing, it sounded like a pretty tedious project. More importantly, getting nutrition from vegetables doesn't need to be that complicated. It's simply not necessary to wring every last microgram of nutrition out of every vegetable we eat in order to enjoy the health benefits and disease protection that a vegetable-rich diet has to offer.
Although it's fun and interesting to learn how nutrients and foods work, you don't need a spreadsheet to ensure good nutrition. The following tips will help you maximize your vegetable nutrition without micromanaging each individual nutrient: