If eating healthy is part of your lifestyle or something you are planning to incorporate into your life, you probably already know that minding what you ingest is very important. So, most people know that what they eat is crucial. However, there are other factors that you must consider if you aim to get the most nutrients from your food.
Ways to get the most nutrients from your food
It is important to realise that as you prepare, eat and digest food, a series of mechanical and chemical changes occur, and this has an effect on:
- The food’s nutritional content or rather, the nutrients it contains, as well as
- The degree to which the nutrients can be absorbed by your body.
Here is what to do to ensure you are getting the most from your food:
- What you buy: Eat freshly grown food and eat it soon after it has been picked. That way, you are able to maximise the minerals and vitamins you get from the food. The longer vegetables and fruits stay uneaten after they been removed from their nutrient source (soil and water), the faster they will lose their nutrients, making them less nutrient dense. Also, try to avoid non-organic or conventional produce as they are subjected to more pesticides than organic produce which can have a negative impact on your health.
- How to store: Ensure to store your fruits and vegetables the right way. Part of what helps vegetables and fruits keep their nutrients is how we store them which is usually a balance between two things; accessibility and slowing down their nutrient loss by keeping them away from heat, light and oxygen as these factors degenerate their nutrients. To ensure your vegetables and fruits keep their nutrients:
1. Store vegetables (those of root variety) in a refrigerator until you need them.
2. Store all fruits except berries but including avocados and tomatoes, at room temperature and away from sunlight.
3. Store cut fruits and vegetables with a squeeze of lemon on them and in an airtight container as vitamin C slows down decay.
4. Store herbs when chopped, frozen in an ice cube tray.
- How you prepare your food: Food preparation is probably the most important way to get the most out of food because this is where majority of people go wrong. Why is this important?
1. Soaking grains and beans reduces phytic acid, which can block your body’s absorption of calcium, magnesium and zinc.
2. Cutting vegetables and fruits frees nutrients by breaking down rigid plant cell walls.
3. Chopping and crushing garlic and onions releases alliinase which is an enzyme that helps form the allicin nutrient which when eaten forms compounds that can protect you against diseases.
- How you cook: Preparation and cooking can be confused as meaning the same thing. However, in this context, preparation is what you do before cooking your food. Cooking is another very crucial part of nutrient preservation. You have most likely heard about eating raw foods being better for you than cooked foods. That is definitely true in some cases. However, it does not apply to all foods. Some foods are best when eaten raw while for others, you can get the most out of them when they are cooked. What heat does, is break down Vitamin B1, B5, C and Folate. Therefore, foods containing these nutrients are better eaten raw to maximize their absorption of water-soluble nutrients. These foods include:
1. Vitamin B1 sources like peas, sunflower seeds and Brussel sprouts.
2. Vitamin B5 sources like cauliflower, avocado, kale and broccoli.
3. Vitamin C sources like broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
4. Sources of folate such as broccoli, spinach and turnip greens.
So instead of boiling these foods, you can prepare them by steaming, blanching, roasting, microwaving or sautéing. If you boil vegetables, use the water for something else like soup stock instead of pouring it down the drain.
Cooking can lead to between 15-55% of nutrient loss. However, some foods deliver most nutrients when cooked. Cooking certain foods:
1. Significantly increases the bioavailability of beta carotene in orange/red/yellow plants like sweet potato, carrots and tomatoes as well as increasing bioavailability of lycopene, which is found in tomatoes,
2.Denatures protein in eggs and meat making them much more digestible,
3. Reduces certain harmful food components like cyanide and possible anti-nutrients in beans and grains, and
4. Makes iron and other minerals more available for absorption while decreasing oxalates which makes minerals inaccessible by binding them.
- Pairing food: Putting certain foods together (apart from improving taste) can also help the body absorb all nutrients better. Here is how to pair food for maximum nutrient absorption:
1. Pair fats with fats: Foods that contain fat-soluble Vitamins A, D, E and K should be paired with dietary fats which help dissolve the vitamins and make them ready to be absorbed. Examples include: foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, eggs, mushrooms, broccoli and spinach which can go well with healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, butter and mixed nuts.
2. Pair iron and zinc with sulphur: Foods rich in zinc such as turkey, beef and oysters and iron such as turkey, liver and beef go better with garlic, egg yolks and onion.
3. Pair iron with vitamin C: Nonheme iron found in animal foods like dark poultry and red meat are not as well absorbed as heme iron. Therefore, for this iron to be absorbed from plant foods, pairing them with vitamin C is necessary. What vitamin C does, is help the plant food release the mineral and block other dietary compounds that can inhibit absorption. This is why foods like spinach, lentils and kale go better with orange slices, strawberries and chili peppers.
Even as you focus on getting the most nutrients from your food, you need to watch out for any food intolerance; for instance, if you experience gastrointestinal tract GI problems like bloating, gas and changes in stool, you should eliminate certain foods to identify which food is causing you the discomfort.
To know precisely whether you are getting the essential nutrients, micronutrient testing is necessary. Vitallife Wellness Centre provides micronutrient testing to determine the micronutrient levels in the blood. Through this test, you are able to determine which nutrients you are lacking, which is useful since deficiencies in minerals and vitamins can lead to health issues over time. Aside from what you eat and how you cook your food, other factors like genetics and lifestyle can also contribute to how your body absorbs nutrients.
Vitallife Wellness Centre which is a subsidiary of Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, has won several awards including:
- Best Health Screening Provider of the Year 2018
The centre also has several accreditations including:
- 1st Wellness Centre in the world to be accredited by DNV GL’s International Accreditation Standard for Outpatients Specialist Centres
- Accredited by the World Council for Clinical Accreditation since 2007
Vitallife has a compounding pharmacy that can produce customized micronutrient supplements to get your nutrient levels back on track.
Contact International Medical Treatment Ltd (IMT) today to get your nutrient levels tested and to start your journey to a healthier, more productive life.