Following a healthy diet sounds easy enough. All you need to do is eat more fresh vegetables to enjoy all their wonderful health benefits. But while eating vegetables is important, how you eat them is probably even more important. If you’re consuming your vegetables the wrong way, you’re probably not reaping the health benefits you think you are. For vegetables to actually improve your health, your body needs to be able to break down the nutrients in it. To make sure all your hard work isn’t going in vain, here are the best ways to eat these seven foods.
1. Leafy Greens
When you’re picking leafy greens, the more vibrant, the better. Brightly colored greens are higher in antioxidants and nutrients. Spinach is the undisputed king of the leafy green world, but there are plenty of other greens you should explore as well. Kale, Swiss chard, radicchio, arugula and endive are beautiful, deep colored greens. What’s not a vibrant green, is lettuce. Lettuce might make for great sandwiches, but nutritionally, it’s almost empty. Most varieties of greens are actually healthier for you cooked because heat makes their nutrients bioavailable. However, it’s important you don’t overcook them because this could kill all their nutrients. A light saute or steam is the perfect way to eat greens. When you’re buying greens, always choose fresh ones that are still attached to the stems. Individually frozen greens are convenient to use, but aren’t as nutrient-dense. When you’re storing your greens, place them in a sealed bag and poke little holes in it for circulation.
Onions are the base of any recipe and are packed with nutrients. Raw onion isn’t the most appetizing, so it’s a relief to know that onions are the healthiest when cooked. Cooking breaks down the cell membranes, making it easier for your body to absorb the nutrients from it. The best way to consume onions is by lightly sauteing them or steaming them. A good way to tell how nutrient-rich an onion is, is by their taste. The more pungent an onion is, the more nutrients it has. Smaller onions are also more nutrient-dense than larger ones, with scallions being the healthiest of all onions.
If you’re still peeling your potatoes before eating them, then it’s time you put away your peeler for good. The skin of the potato is where most of its nutrition comes from. Without the skin, potatoes are just lumps of starch. When you’re picking potatoes, pick the brightest colored ones for the most nutrition. Purple potatoes and sweet potatoes are the healthiest kind and come with many health benefits. These types of potatoes are less starchy and have more antioxidants. If you’re eating white potatoes, then refrigerate them for a whole day after you’ve cooked them and drizzle them with vinegar. This reduces the glycemic index of white potatoes, making them less unhealthy for you.
Heirloom tomato salads are the perfect side on a hot, summer’s day, but nutritionally, they don’t do so great. Red tomatoes are higher in the antioxidant lycopene than yellow and green ones are. Lycopene is one of the most powerful antioxidant known to us and is the main reason why tomatoes are so healthy. The best way for your body to access the lycopene in tomatoes is by cooking them. When you eat tomatoes raw, most of the lycopene content in tomatoes goes to waste. Tomato sauces and tomato pastes have the highest concentration of lycopene. When you’re storing tomatoes, always store them at room temperature, not in the fridge.
5. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables include a whole variety of vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage. When you’re buying broccoli, always choose the freshest ones available, since they lose their nutrient-value very quickly after being harvested. Whole heads of broccoli also stay fresh for much longer than packets of florets. A light steam for around 5 minutes is the best way to eat broccoli. Never boil it because this can cause it to lose almost all of its nutrient content. Cauliflower stays fresh when it’s stored as a full head. White cauliflower is well-known for being able to fight cancer, while purple cauliflower has more antioxidants. Brussels sprouts need to be stored in a sealed bag in the fridge and eaten as soon as possible or they will go bad. Kale can stay fresh for a few days at the most when stored in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. For all cruciferous vegetables, a light steam is the healthiest way to eat them.
Richly-colored beets are packed with antioxidants. When you’re buying beets, make sure you buy ones with their tops still intact. Beet tops are also packed with fiber and nutrition, so don’t throw them away. Beets are best eaten lightly steamed or stir-fried. You can juice them too, but this can take away all their amazing fiber. Roasting also deepens the flavor of beets and makes their nutrients more bioavailable. Beet leaves can be chopped up and steamed, like how you would regular greens.
A perfectly ripe avocado has luscious soft flesh and tastes deliciously creamy. However, if you accidentally end up buying underripe avocados, then they’re rock hard and aren’t good for much. To avoid making that mistake again, always press avocados before you buy them. A ripe avocado will feel softer and will leave a slight indentation where you pressed it. Underripe avocados feel very hard and have no give when you press them. You can keep whole avocados fresh in your fridge for up to two days. If you’ve already cut the avocado, then store them with the seed and drizzle it with some lime juice.