When we think of a piece of broccoli, for example, we tend not to be too concerned with how it’s prepared in regard to its nutrient value. Some people prefer to steam their broccoli, while others like to roast in with a cheese sauce poured over. But the way in which certain foods are prepared and cooked can make a huge difference in how available their nutrients are.
To get the most out of certain foods, especially specific vegetables, it may be worth using these cooking tips as often as possible.
Broccoli is the perfect example of a kind of food that needs some preparation before cooking. Being part of the cruciferous family of vegetables, along with others like kale, broccoli contains a compound call sulforaphane, a potent phytonutrient that has been shown to work wonders for the immune system along with the ability to fight off a wide range of cancers. This compound, however, is only available when the plant is damaged, such as when it’s chewed or cut up. For this reason, it’s a good idea to cut broccoli at least 40 minutes before cooking it, as this allows the sulforaphane to develop over that period. Throwing a cruciferous vegetable straight into heat destroys the chemicals needed to produce sulforaphane.
While most vegetables tend to lose nutrients when they’re cooked, often from a method like boiling where the nutritional value is leached into the water, carrots are the exception. Much of the beta-carotene, for example, is not as available in a carrot if eaten raw, and cooking it will soften and burst the cell walls and allow these compounds to become bioavailable to eat.
On the other end of the spectrum are bell peppers, those spicy and delicious veggies that go well for most savoury dishes. While most people would prefer to cook their peppers to some degree, to get the most out of them, it’s best to eat them raw. Many of the nutrients found within bell peppers are susceptible to heat, so eating them raw, such as in a salad, is the best way of of obtaining these compounds. It should also be noted that red peppers have many times the antioxidant value of green or yellow peppers.
Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, but with fishing populations under strain, turning to a plant-based alternative is easy and cheap. Flax seeds contain more than enough omega-3 for the human body, but it’s only bioavailable once the seeds have been crushed up into a powder. Eating them whole has little effect, but a tablespoon of flax seed powder added to any dish provides all the omega-3 that we need.
Nuts eaten raw are extremely healthy for us, but roasting them can make them even better, and gives us a little time to catch up on emails or check out the latest real money bingo in Canada. Folate, for example, a kind of B vitamin, is increased in almonds when they are dry-roasted, as long as no additives, such as salt, are added.