Ways to Improve The Nutritional Value of Food
Published on: 27-Jul-2022
10 min read
Updated on : 02-Nov-2023
Ways to Improve The Nutritional Value of Food
Did you know it is possible to enhance the nutritional value of foods beyond what it already is? Here’s how:
Every bite you take triggers a series of mechanical and chemical changes. These changes affect the nutritional content of the food and the bioavailability of each nutrient consumed. Bioavailability refers to how food gets absorbed into the body during digestion.
This implies that some nutrients are best available when we eat food in raw form. However, there are some foods whose nutrients are available only when we cook, crush, cut, or eat them with something on the side, so here are a few tips to improve the nutritional value of the foods you consume.
Table Of Contents
1. Get The Most Nutrition Out Of Food
2. Storing Fruits And Vegetables The Right Way
3. Eating Raw
4. Know Which Foods Are Best When Cooked
5. Consume Strategically To Maximise Nutrient Absorption
6. Animal-Based Vs. Plant-Based Food
7. Monitor Your Tolerance
9. The Final Say
Get the Most Nutrition Out of Food
1. Emphasise consuming locally grown food
Buying local farm produce has multiple benefits. It is fresh and nutrient-rich. The debate over organic and traditional is a separate issue altogether, but visiting your local farmer’s market to purchase fresh produce will enhance the nutritional value of your everyday meals.
2. Soak, chop, crush, blend
Food preparation basics should be followed to extract more vitamins, minerals and other compounds from foods.
- Chopping fruits and vegetables- Breaking the hard plant cell walls frees the nutrients.
- Chopping and crushing onion and garlic- This helps in releasing alliinase. Alliinase is an enzyme that helps form the nutrient allicin. Allicin, when consumed, facilitates the formation of other compounds that build immunity.
- Soaking beans and grains- To better absorb iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium, soaking grains and beans before cooking can reduce phytic acid.
Storing Fruits and Vegetables the Right Way
Make sure to keep the fruits and vegetables at easy access. Fruits and vegetables should be kept from sunlight, oxygen (to avoid oxidation) and heat as these degrade their nutritional value. Here is how you can store the following foods.
- All vegetables except roots and tubers should be stored in a refrigerator.
- All fruits barring berries, tomatoes and avocados, should be stored at room temperature, away from sunlight, except the tomatoes and Avocados.
- Apply lemon juice over cut fruits and vegetables before storing them in an airtight container. It reduces the oxidation of nutrients, and the fruits or vegetables will not turn brown.
- All herbs should be stored with their phytonutrients — chopped up and frozen in an ice cube tray with water.
Sources of heat-sensitive and water-soluble nutrients should be consumed raw. Vitamin B5, B1, folate and vitamin C break down due to heat. Hence it is advisable to consume foods containing these nutrients raw. For instance, raw spinach has three times more vitamin C than cooked spinach. Sources of vitamin B1: sunflower seeds, peas, beet greens and Brussel sprouts.
- Sources of vitamin B5- broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and avocado
- Sources of folate- spinach, turnip greens, broccoli
- Sources of vitamin C- bell peppers, broccoli and brussels sprouts are generally eaten raw to increase absorption of these water-soluble nutrients.
Vitamins B and C are water-soluble, so you should cook them in less water and on very low heat to stop the vitamins from getting dissolved and discarded before being consumed.
You can use some methods to preserve vitamins.
Know Which Foods Are Best When Cooked
Up to 50-55% of nutrients are lost due to cooking. Some foods lose their nutrients in boiling water. But cooking has pros, too; iron and other minerals become more available for absorption. Oxalates are acids that make minerals inaccessible by sticking to foods, and cooking food decreases their presence.
Cooking helps in reducing the amount of cyanide (anti-nutrient) found in beans and grains. Here are some foods that are great when cooked:
- Tomatoes- Research indicates that when tomatoes are boiled for 30 minutes, lycopene content increases by 25%, which can be very good for the body.
- Red/yellow/orange plants- In foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and spinach, the bioavailability of carotene peaks when cooked because beta carotene is fat soluble.
- Meat and eggs- For proper and easier digestion of proteins, they should be cooked thoroughly.
Consume Strategically to Maximise Nutrient Absorption
One needs to consume the right kind of food to maximise the absorption of the nutrients from meals. Avoid eating frozen foods; frozen broccoli will not taste as fresh and will not provide one with similar nutrients as freshly picked broccoli would. Keep in mind that canning and freezing food also changes the nutrient content. However, fibre will not be affected as much due to such processes.
Animal-based Vs. Plant-based Food
In most cases, animal-based food has more vitamin and mineral bioavailability than plant-based food. To exemplify, your body would absorb more iron from meat than from a portion of plant-based food.
Monitor Your Tolerance
Nutrients cannot do you much good if you have an undetected food intolerance that keeps you from absorbing them. It can be difficult for everyone to digest raw foods, although they are highly beneficial.
If one has GI symptoms such as bloating, gas or issues with passing stools, consider an elimination diet to figure out what your body cannot tolerate and consult a health professional or seek medical advice. Once you eliminate the foods that hamper you, then you can better enhance your nutrient intake.
Germination is the process of sprouting seeds. You can soak seeds overnight in water. After draining the water the next day, tie the seeds in a loose cotton cloth or bag and hang them. Sprinkle water on the hung pulses twice or thrice a day, and you will see sprouts appearing within 6-8 hours.
This process helps enhance the nutritional value of food. It is a conventional no-heat process that increases nutrient bioavailability in pulses and cereals. It also aids digestion, reduces anti-nutrients, boosts free amino acids and carbs and improves overall functionality.
The Final Say
We can finally say that there are multiple ways to enhance the nutritional value of foods and get the most out of them. Did you know even dark chocolate is nutrient-rich? It is all about moderation and smart eating!
Making these small changes in how you consume foods can make all the difference in the world while providing you with their health benefits. Consuming nutrient-dense food but consuming it the right way will help you reduce the risk of multiple issues and ailments. Try these tips out and see the change yourself!
1. What is blanching, and why is it beneficial?
Blanching refers to the procedure wherein fruits or vegetables are boiled for a certain period and then removed and put into iced cold water. This process helps reduce quality loss in vegetables and fruits over time and helps preserve significant amounts of nutrition.
2. What are some vegetarian/vegan alternatives to animal-based foods with high nutritional value?
Vegetarians can opt for pulses and legumes, dairy products for protein and good fats, omega 3 and fatty acids, and for vegetarians and vegans, nuts and seeds are good options. However, some food groups vegans avoid, like milk and curd, so instead of animal milk, they can opt for oats, almonds and soy milk, and it is products like soy curd.
3. What are the benefits of eating locally grown foods?
Locally grown foods are an excellent source of nutrition. Since they are grown locally, they will reach you at their earliest, ensuring fresh consumption. They would contain large amounts of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Apart from their natural nutritional value, you would also be supporting local farmers around you!
4. What are some methods of cooking that can preserve vitamins and minerals?
The methods that can preserve vitamins and minerals are
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