I was reading through some health-related articles the other day and came across this one, which shocked me….sort of. The article reported that many of our once very nutritious fruits and veggies have lost their nutritional value over the years. They used an example of broccoli, which in 1950 had 130 mg of calcium per serving, and now has 48 mg per serving. What the heck? What’s going on?
According to the article our common use of “selective breeding and synthetic fertilizers” decreases the produce’s ability to soak up nutrients from the soil. The effect is opposite in organic foods, which are actually put under more stress during their growth, forcing them to produce more phytonutrients (plant nutrients, which benefit our bodies, such as beta carotene and lycopene). Can’t afford organic? Here is what the article suggested (and I agree):
– Pair your produce: Basically this is indicating that many of the beneficial nutrients in fruits and veggies are better absorbed when eaten with other foods. I’ve talked about fat soluble vitamins before, such as vitamin A, D, E, and K. These all need fat in order to be absorbed. For example, a professor at The Ohio State University found that pairing tomatoes and avocado is a great way to increase the absorption of cancer-fighting lycopene (other forms of fat help too, such as olives, oil, and/or cheese).
– Buy smaller items: Put down that HUGE tomato! You’re better off buying the smaller grape tomatoes. Smaller fruits and veggies have more concentrated sources of phytonutrients (plant nutrients). Most of the disease-fighters are found in the skin. When you eat a handful of grape tomatoes (or grapes!) you are getting more surface area of skin than if you eat half of a giant tomato.
– Pay attention to cooking methods: Did you know that some fruits and veggies actually become more nutritious when heated? Broccoli, tomatoes, and carrots are some examples. They each contain a type of phytonutrient called carotenoids, which are better absorbed by the body when heated. Steaming is a great way to heat vegetables because minimal nutrients are lost in the water (such as what happens when you boil vegetables in water).
– Eat within a week: Research suggests all produce should be eaten within one week of purchasing if you want to obtain the most health benefits. Try to plan your meals close to the date when you bought your produce.
Question: What are some of your tips for keeping your produce packed full of nutrients?
One thing I do is buy a lot of frozen produce, especially vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. When frozen produce are harvested they are immediately cooked and then blanched to stop the cooking process. After this they are quickly frozen to help lock in all of the nutrients. No matter how long the produce is in the store, waiting to be bought, or in my freezer, waiting to be heated, they aren’t losing any more nutrients!
Saturday is my last day in Pittsburgh. I’ll admit that I will sort of miss it here, as I’ve really grown to like it (no, I have NOT become a Steelers fan….), but I’m more excited to go home! I won’t post again until next week, when I’ll be posting some recaps of my days here. What have I been eating? What have I been doing? Find out next week.