Did you know that you can increase the amount of nutrients you get from a fruit or vegetable based on how you choose your produce, store it, and prepare it? Jo Robinson is an investigative journalist who delved deep into the wilds of nutrition research to write a book about how to maximize nutrition in the kitchen. Here are just a few of her tips:
1. Glorious greens: When it comes to the best leafies to choose, stand aside kale and spinach. Reviewing the scientific literature, Robinson found that red leaf lettuce actually has the highest concentration of nutrients. Rotate it into your regular choices and make sure it is stored dry in the fridge to avoid leaf rot. Her recommendation for storing all greens and many other veggies is in large plastic bags lined with pin-sized holes, which provide the perfect level of humidity in your crisper drawer. For plastic bins of greens, try this: remove the leaves, line the plastic with paper towels to absorb any excess water, and replace the leaves. Prepare for fresh greens for a week or longer!
2. Choose the best and brightest: As Robinson explains, the bright colors of some fruits and veggies indicate places where the plants had to make additional nutrients in order to protect themselves from the harsh UV rays of sunlight. The more nutrients the plant made to protect itself, the more nutrients we will ingest when we eat it. Apples are a perfect example – a bright, uniformly red apple was more likely to be hanging high on a tree, fully exposed to light and full of nutrients. Apples that are only red on one side, and yellowed or green on the other were likely lower on the tree and partially shaded.
3. Make it Italian night: There are a number of fruits and veggies that, when cooked, actually increase in nutrient content. A few of them may not surprise you, because cooking them low and slow has been custom for centuries. Tomatoes and onion both, when cooked slowly over long periods, will gain more nutrients due to chemical changes during cooking. Garlic is another; garlic contains two chemicals that, when separate, don’t have nutritional value. However when you slice and mash garlic the two are able to join chemically to create an antioxidant call allicin. Allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes for maximum nutrient benefits.
4. Canned can be better: Following the above point, consider canned diced tomatoes or tomato paste. The preparation of these products has concentrated their nutrients, in particular the antioxidant lycopene, for a more nutritious and flavorful tomato experience. Use them to enhance fresh tomatoes in a homemade sauce or chilled gazpacho, along with your favorite herbs and spices. For other canned products, rinsing the canning liquid in clean filtered water will drastically reduce any excess sodium intake.
For more great tips on how to get the most out of your fruits and veggies, check out Jo Robinson at http://www.eatwild.com or pick up her best-selling book, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health.