When it comes to veggies, how you cook may be as important as what you cook.
Some cooking techniques can cause foods to lose nutrients, while other kitchen tricks can actually enhance nutrients.
Let look at a few simple prep tips to dial up the nutritional profile.
Crush fresh garlic
These little nutritional bombs are loaded with protective phytochemicals. One of which, allicin, is an antimicrobial agent.
This phytochemical needs a little activation help. Crushing, cutting and chopping garlic increases an enzyme called alliinase, which helps to form allicin.
But don’t cook it right away. Wait 15 minutes for this reaction to occur, or you will prevent the alliinase from doing its thing.
Chop cruciferous vegetables
Similar to garlic, cruciferous vegetables—broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts—have an enzyme that gets activated by chopping.
This enzyme, myrosinase, creates a powerful compound called sulforaphane, which may help fight cancer, especially breast cancer. It can also help fight inflammation.
It takes about 40 minutes to complete the reaction when cooking, however, so start this cooking step early. Or, better yet, buy pre-chopped cruciferous.
Cooked whole carrots have 25% more falcarinol—another cancer fighter—compared to baby carrots. Try adding some carrots to soups or roast them in the oven for a delicious side dish to your meal.
Skip raw tomatoes
Canned food? Yes, canned tomatoes and cooked tomatoes are actually more nutritious than raw. Cooking increases the lycopene content, which can help fight cardiovascular disease, inflammation and cancers, particularly prostate cancer.
Tearing romaine lettuce the day before eating actually quadruples the antioxidant content. This includes compounds like lutein, zeaxanthin and carotenoids.
These are also better absorbed with fats from nuts, avocados or olive oil dressing.
Our bodies cannot process the outer shell of flaxseed. Grind whole flaxseed in a coffee grinder or high-power blender for maximum benefit.
This allows our bodies to access the beneficial omega-3s, lignans and fiber, which help protect against colon or breast cancer, regulate cholesterol and blood sugars and improve digestion.
You can access these beneficial nutrients through food prep hacks, and maximize the plant power of your meals.