Healthier food: 12 Ways to Make Your Vegetables More Nutritious

  • How to Make Lettuce more Healthy
  • 12 Ways to Boost the Nutritional Power of Everyday Vegetables
  •  Why tinned tomatoes and tinned beans are better for you

It is time to rethink our approach to healthier food.

Last week I wrote to you about the decline in the nutritional value of fruit and veg.

And no, not because of modern farming methods.

But because of farming in general.

Since the Neolithic age we have selected, bred and modified wild food into the versions we know today.

In doing so, we have dramatically lowered the number of phytonutrients in our fruit and veg.

Which means they are less able to help our bodies fight cancer, maintain a strong immune system and control blood pressure.

But there are ways you can claw back some of that nutrition.

It all depends on which specific fruit and veg you choose when you go shopping…

Where and how you store them when you get them home…

And how you cook them.

Get these three elements right and you can turn everyday ingredients into superfoods – or at least make them as good for you as possible.

As I mentioned last week, there’s a great book about this, called Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson,

She has some fantastic tips on getting the most out of food. Take, for instance, the humble salad…

How to turn lettuce into a healthier food

As we head into March, we tend to start eating more salads.

Before you next shop for ingredients, Robinson has this advice…

Look for red, purple or reddish brown leaves if you want the most phytonutrients. This reddish colour is provided by anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that help fight cancer and lower blood pressure.

You should also seek out plants with looser or more open leaves – for instance an iceberg lettuce and other crisp-head varieties with tight leaves are not as healthy.

If you tear up your lettuce before you store it at home, you can double its antioxidant value.  That’s because the plant is responding to attack by releasing phytonutrients to fend off intruders.

You see, fruits and vegetables don’t die when they are harvested. They LIVE ON in your home, where they continue to consume oxygen and product carbon dioxide.

This is why you should store lettuce inside a sealed bag pierced with holes to let it breathe and maintain its nutritional value for longer.

Jo Robinson also recommends that you buy whole spinach in bunches rather than bagged leaves – this is because the longer it is stored in a bag, the lower its antioxidant properties.

For the most impact, choose midsize leaves over baby spinach or ones with massive leaves.

Here are some more great tips to get healthier food that you might want to try….

12 Ways to Boost the Nutritional Power of Everyday Vegetables

  • Broccoli loses its nutrients very quickly after harvesting so choose whole heads, rather than cut florets, and eat within a day of purchase. Steaming it for less than 5 minutes keeps more nutrients in the veg.
  • Kale is the most beneficial of all the cruciferous veg and even more so if you eat it raw. Alternatively, give it a brief steam or sauté it quickly in oil to preserve more of the goodness.
  • Dried beans have more antioxidants than most vegetables. The best are lentils, black beans, kidney beans and pinto beans. You should simmer them, then let them soak in the cooking liquid for an hour so that they reabsorb some of the nutrients. Tinned beans are very good for you because the canning process actually enhances the nutritional content.
  • Similarly, tinned tomatoes can be better for you than fresh ones, because they are ripened in the field and put into cans shortly after harvesting – the heat involved in the canning process actually increases the absorption of healthy lycopene. This is also why cooking your tomatoes makes them healthier than raw ones.
  • To get most nutritional benefit from garlic, mince it or press it, then let rest for ten minutes before you cook.
  • The stronger the onion, the better for your health. Choose bold tasting red and yellow varieties for the best effect.
  • The green portions of leeks have more bionutrients than the white bits so make sure you include those in your food.
  • For potatoes, choose the ones with the darkest skins and flesh, and try blue, purple and red varieties. New potatoes are best stored in the fridge but older potatoes best stores in a dark cool location like a larder – ideally a closed paper bag with a few small holes to help with ventilation.
  • Purple, red and yellow carrots are richer in anthocyanins, while red beets are high in betalins – bionutrients that can help fight cancer.
  • Sweet potatoes are a healthier alternative to regular potatoes because they have more antioxidants and a lower glycemic index.
  • The healthiest asparagus has short straight spears with tightly closed tips. Only steam lightly and for the best nutritional punch, simply shave raw asparagus and add it to salad.
  • Choose red apples that have red skin all the way around the fruit. They are usually the best for you, although Granny Smith apples (which are green) are also high in antioxidants.

I hope some of these healthier food tips prove useful to you. They’re all pretty easy to manage – it’s just a case of being a more thoughtful shopper and taking care of how you store and cook your food.