Eating fruits and vegetables is good for us, we know this for a fact. But, did you know there are ways to make your healthy foods even healthier? Follow some of these tips to make healthy eating easier and maximize the nutritional punch of the foods you are eating.
Purchase and Prep Tips
Try to buy local and in season. “There is such value in eating seasonally and close to home. It reduces the miles that the food travels. As soon as foods are harvested, the nutritional value begins to decline,” says Katie Harvey, Workplace Wellness CSA Program Coordinator for the Organic Association of Kentucky. “In season produce is also going to taste better because the growing conditions are optimized,” adds Katie. There are several ways to get local vegetables, fruits, meat, and eggs, including joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), receiving food deliveries directly from an online farm store, or visiting a farmer’s market. Many Louisville-area farmer’s markets are open through November.
Washing and chopping vegetables as soon as you bring them home will ensure healthy foods are available when you need them. “This is essential for making eating healthy easy and accessible everyday,” says Mariah Foderaro, health coach and founder of Your Health Edit.
In addition to having foods ready for a quick snack or as ingredients for a healthy meal, you will also extend the life of your produce if you prep and store properly. “Be sure to take off leafy greens from root vegetables. Take off any bands from produce, leaving the bands on will break down the plant cell wall faster. Also, place fresh herbs in a glass of water for storage,” advises Katie.
Garlic and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage are a few in this category) have an added health benefit when you chop them ahead of use. “These vegetables are more nutritionally valuable when they have been damaged- cut, chopped, or crushed. If you cut or chop them, let them sit for 40 minutes before use. This releases an enzyme that activates the sulforaphane content, which is a sulfur-rich compound that aids in heart-health and digestion,” says Mariah.
Foods to Pair Together
Some foods are perfect partners for maximizing nutritional benefit. Pair vitamin K rich foods, like spinach, with foods high in omega-3, like walnuts. This powerful combination promotes better circulation, bone strength, and cell growth. Promote iron absorption by pairing iron rich foods with foods high in vitamin C. “The iron found in kale is better absorbed when paired with the vitamin C found in strawberries. This is great for people who live a plant-based or vegetarian lifestyle. It can be hard to find iron when meat is eliminated from the diet and this is a great option,” says Mariah.
Spice up your food for a health benefit. Aging naturally leads to a slower metabolism. You can give your metabolism a natural boost by adding spice to your food. “For those who like it spicy, adding cayenne pepper boosts metabolism for energy and fat burning,” says Mariah.
Oftentimes, talk of healthy eating conjures images of giving up foods you love. “Instead of taking food away, find ways to add vegetables in. Tweaking the foods you already love is an easier place to start,” says Katie. Love mac and cheese? Add in broccoli or butternut squash to up the nutritional value of your favorite food.
Be mindful of your eating habits. Don’t go on autopilot and eat meals just because it is time to eat. Listen to your body and eat when you are hungry. “We overeat with our modern diet and this doesn’t give our bodies a chance to rest and repair. This leads to inflammation which then leads to disease and dysfunction,” says Mariah.
By Tami Pyles