Live Right Live Well: Diet
By Steve Gelman for Live Right Live Well
Yes, yes, we know that you know that eating broccoli is good for you. But did you know that cooking it incorrectly can destroy the health benefits? Or that failing to spot just one word on the label of cooking oil can deprive you of vital nutrients? “You must always be aware of nutrient retention if you want to get the biggest health boost from food,” says Jennifer Crum, a dietitian with New York University Medical Center in New York City. “And the way you cook, buy and store food can make a big difference in how many nutrients it retains” To maximize the nutrients in the food your family eats, follow these 10 simple dos and don’ts from the experts:
DON’T buy “blended” cooking oil Blended oils are usually dominated by the cheapest and least-healthful oil listed on the label. Instead, look for single-source oils such as pure canola or pure olive.
DO buy fruit whole Nutrients in fruit can be diminished by exposure to air, so buy melons and other fruit whole, rather than cut in halves, quarters or cubes, says David DeVellis, M.D., a Groton, Mass., nutrition consultant and a medical editor at the University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter.
DO make sure fish is fresh Buy only those that the store keeps on ice and covers with ice. The fish should have bright, glossy skin; clear, bulging eyes; tight scales and firm flesh. The aroma should be clean and briny, with no whiff of iodine, ammonia or strong fishiness.
DON’T cut fruit and vegetables before storing Once you slice and dice, fruit and vegetables begin to lose vitamin C, says Marisa Sherry, a dietitian with Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
DO put soups and stews in the refrigerator overnight The next day the unhealthy fat will have congealed on top, and you can simply skim it away, leaving the healthy nutrients intact. You can do the same thing with stock and sauces, adds Crum.
DO cook vegetables Cooking vegetables until they’re just tender releases nutrients so that they are absorbed more readily into the body than if the vegetables were eaten raw, says Crum.
DON’T boil away vitamins Boiling vegetables, especially in large amounts of water, drains away essential vitamins, says Sherry. Steaming or stir-frying retains the most nutrients. This is especially true of broccoli, but in general, the less water most vegetables are cooked in, the healthier they will be.
DON’T remove the skin from potatoes This is because most of the nutrients in potatoes are near the surface, says Crum. Instead, scrub potatoes to remove dirt, then bake, steam or heat them in a microwave to preserve vitamins.
DO cook carrots with a bit of olive oil A little monounsaturated fat can make it easier for your body to absorb the vital antioxidant beta-carotene, says Crum.
DO roast meat and poultry on a rack This allows fat to drip away for the best heart-healthy results, says the American Heart Association. In addition, use low-fat broth instead of pan drippings for basting.
Steve Gelman, contributing writer for Live Right Live Well, has covered health and fitness as an editor and writer for more than 30 years. His work has been published by the Reader's Digest Association, Life, Esquire, Woman's Day and other major outlets.
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