These simple food preparation hacks can make your diet healthier

If your weekly shopping is a carefully curated list that would make a nutritionist proud, you’ll definitely be interested to know that, with clever preparation and cooking, you can literally boost these ingredients and their nutritional value.

For example, pop your mushrooms in the sunshine and you will increase the production of vitamin D in the fungi, thus giving you a bigger hit when you eat them.

To find out more, read on, and then bask in your nutritional glory…

Squeeze fruit with lemon juice

‘Fruit loses its nutrient content once cut,’ says Lola Biggs, registered dietician at Together Health.

‘This is because it reacts to light and oxygen which reduces the antioxidant vitamins inside.

‘This also results in sugars inside the produce being broken down and carbon dioxide released, which causes faster spoilage as well as a change in texture/taste.

‘The best way to store your fruit and retain more nutritional value is to leave them in the fridge intact until you need them.

‘Cut into larger chunks as less surface area means less oxygen exposure and more vitamin retention and squeeze over some fresh lemon – this contains citric acid which helps protect cut fruit from oxidization – and keep in an air-tight container.’

Pop your mushrooms in the sunshine

‘Mushrooms are one of few plant sources of vitamin D,’ says Jennifer Irvine, founder of Pure Package.

‘Just like humans, mushrooms absorb sunlight through their skin, which is converted by the body into vitamin D.

‘The vitamin D found in sunlight-soaked mushrooms is bioavailable, meaning it is easily absorbed by the body after being eaten.

‘Recently, a randomised study was carried out during which 30 healthy adults were given either 50 micrograms of vitamin D supplement or the equal amount of mushrooms that had been exposed to UV/sunlight.

‘Interestingly, the research showed vitamin D levels from the mushrooms to be as effective as supplemental vitamin D in raising levels of this nutrient in humans.

‘This suggests that mushrooms can be an excellent natural choice for those wanting to optimise their vitamin D levels.’

Pair vitamin C and iron

‘For those on a plant-based or vegan diet it’s important to ensure you get enough iron,’ says Dr Emma Williams, a nutritionist for Waitrose.

‘However, the type of iron found in plant-based foods is much harder for the body to absorb and so consuming around 100mg of vitamin C will help with iron absorption.

‘Therefore, the next time you are eating foods that provide a source of iron (think quinoa, bran, wheat flours, tofu, beans, lentils, chickpeas, dried fruits, nuts, and seeds), make sure you are also having rich vitamin C food sources.

‘These could include peppers, kale, watercress and broccoli with your meal, or things like citrus fruits, papaya, kiwi, and berries such as blackcurrants, strawberries and raspberries, which you could eat as dessert afterwards.’

Crush your garlic

‘The bioactive compound, allicin, is found in garlic and is what gives the food its anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-reducing benefits,’ says Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the Health and Food Supplements Information Service.

‘However, it’s easily destroyed by heat when we cook it. Despite this, a study found that the best ways to maximise the benefits of allicin were to crush the garlic raw to release the allicin enzyme, or to roast it whole.

‘Leave the crushed or chopped garlic for ten minutes before you add it to the pan because, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, allowing the garlic to sit maximises the allicin and so heating only destroys around a third of it, leaving plenty for your heart health’.

Soak your grains

‘Grains have had a lot of negative press due to their high carb levels and difficulty to affectively absorb in the body,’ says Ché Godfrey-Harper, senior nutritionist at Balance Box.

‘Grains like brown rice, oats, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat are excellent sources of dietary fiber, B vitamins, and protein.

‘They are linked to a vast range of health benefits including reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

‘However, these grains contain a compound called phytic acid, which comes with its own pros and cons.

‘Phytic acid binds to other compounds which are then flushed out of the body.

‘While this helps the body to get rid of toxins and unwanted impurities, the phytic acid also binds to important minerals, preventing them from being absorbed. To neutralise phytic acid, soak grains before cooking them.

‘The process of soaking (in water with an acidic medium such as lemon juice) releases the enzyme inhibitors to make the nutrients much easier to absorb. This process also makes these grains easier to digest.’

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