Getting the Most Nutrition in the Food You Eat

One of the simplest and best ways to get good nutrition from fruits and vegetables is to cook them less. Fresh vegetables tend to have more of their nutrients still intact. But the distance they have traveled since they were picked can cause the nutrients to diminish. According to my local Agricultural County Extension Office just 6 hours after a fruit or vegetable is picked ½ the vitamins are gone.

Something similar happens to plant enzymes. In fact people are so unlikely to come in contact with actual plant enzymes in food they might experience temporary stomach upset if they actually encounter something fresh enough to have them. It is unlikely any plant enzymes would actually be in food you buy from a grocer.

You would probably only get the full compliment of vitamins and plant enzymes if you grow and pick and prepare the foods yourself. So a fresh fruit or vegetable that has traveled a long way is losing nutrients in every mile traveled. But there are other issues that diminish the amount of vitamins and other nutrients that are available to consumers.

Cooking also diminishes available nutrients in food. For example foods that are canned are often cooked at least twice, once in the canning process and again when you heat it for your table. And each time you lose a few nutrients. Generally only tomatoes and beans retain significant nutrients in cans.

Freezing may preserve nutrients better than some fresh foods that have traveled a long way. Frozen vegetables are usually processed quickly after picking. They are not cooked as long as canned vegetables and fruits and their flavor is superior to canned things. The way you prepare foods at home matters, too. Shorter cooking times can preserve vitamins and other nutrients.

Broccoli can be really disgusting when it’s overcooked. Chopped broccoli cooked 2 minutes in the microwave is cooked enough and really good. It is also good raw, far better than the overcooked stuff that often appears on plates. Best of all you get better nutrition.

And most fruits and vegetables are the same, especially the ones that get a strong taste with overcooking. Turnips, carrots, rutabagas and beets are lovely, sweet treats shredded and served raw on the side with lean fish, crab or shrimp. But overcooking makes them totally different and unappetizing.

Many fast foods and convenience foods are less nutritious than other fresher options. They have a lot of refined flour, very little fruits and vegetables, a lot of salt and sugar to extend shelf life and help preserve the food. They are very bad for people with diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Many pregnant women are told by their obstetricians not to eat this kind of food because of high blood pressure. For example, chicken that is prepared and fried or roasted in fast food restaurants is usually soaked in salty water, increasing the salt content in the food to dangerous levels.

These preserved foods are common in school lunches, too.

Foods that have been irradiated have no vitamins or plant enzymes that survive the process, again according to my local Agricultural County Extension Service. We need to insist on knowing whether this has been done to foods, because a product that is supposed to be food is also supposed to be nutritious.

Good vegetables and fruits served raw or lightly cooked taste great and have more nutrients. They actually qualify as real food. Finding food that has nutrients intact can be a real challenge. But it is worth the trouble if you and yours are getting the nutrients you need to be healthy and perform optimally.

A little garden can also make your total food intake more nourishing. Herbs can be grown on a sunny windowsill and make your food much healthy and yummy. Do everything you can to make the food you eat better quality. If you are overweight and constantly craving things to eat you need to take a close look at the quality of the food you are buying. Food, by definition is supposed to nourish the body, not make it fat and sick.