BUYING healthy food is just the first step toward a better diet. The next step is preparing it correctly to reap all its benefits. Did you know that sautéing leafy greens in a bit of olive oil instead of steaming them will help you absorb up to five times as much of the vision-protecting antioxidant beta-carotene?
Proper preparation like cutting the ingredients and cooking them can make or break your nutrient bank.
* Heat tomatoes to help your heart. Heating lycopene-rich tomatoes instigates a chemical change that makes the heart-healthy nutrient much easier for your body to absorb.
Cut the tomatoes lengthwise; arrange on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Broil for 15 to 20 minutes, until slightly shriveled.
* Science in letting crushed garlic stand for 10 minutes. High temperatures destroy allinase, garlic's most important cancer-fighting and immunity-boosting enzyme. After chopping, let crushed garlic stand for about 10 to 15 minutes before adding it to a sizzling pan. This allows the pungent herb to generate compounds that blunt the damaging effects of heat, according to scientists at Pennsylvania State University and the National Cancer Institute.
* Right pan for acidic foods. A study at the Texas Tech University showed that cooking acidic foods in a cast-iron pot for 10 times the iron. Heat acidic foods in a cast-iron pot or skillet to spike the amount of the energy-boosting iron you absorb by more than 2,000 percent.
Coupling certain iron-rich foods with high-acid ones gives a tenfold boost to your iron absorption. While the iron in red meat is easily absorbed on its own, the type of iron found in beans, grains, and veggies isn't.
* Add lemon juice to bone broth for extra calcium. Get more calcium by adding lemon juice or vinegar to your bone broth soup.
If you're preparing homemade chicken soup, it's smart to add a hint of lemon juice, vinegar, or tomato to the mix. Pairing a slightly acidic broth with on-the-bone chicken can up the soup's calcium content by 64 percent, according to researchers at Harvard University and Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. The stock dissolves the bone's calcium more easily than a nonacidic one would.
* How good fats help absorb more vitamins. Not all fats are bad. Good fats in avocado, olive oil, nuts, olives, or another healthy fat source to red, green, orange, and yellow fruits and veggies increases the amount of fat- soluble vitamins, such as A, E, and K. These nutrients boost vision, improve immunity, and protect against stroke and osteoporosis, respectively.
A study found that men and women who ate salsa containing chunks of avocado absorbed 4.4 times as much lycopene and 2.6 times as much beta-carotene than those who enjoyed plain salsa.
* Drizzle your salad with herbs for double the antioxidants. Dressing your salad with herbs can more than double its cancer-fighting punch, according to a recent study in Italy. When compared with garden salads made with no added herbs, those featuring lemon balm and marjoram had up to 200 percent more antioxidants per serving. Spices such as ginger and cumin also upped the antioxidant quotient.
* Large cut is better. Slicing ingredients or vegetables is much better as this retain the vitamin C content of vegetables.
When you're slicing and dicing fresh produce, cut large pieces. Lots of small portions expose more of the fruit or vegetable to nutrient-leaching oxygen and light. Larger cut retains more vitamin C which helps bolster immunity. Quarter carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes instead of dicing them; slice melons into crescents rather than cubing.