Macronutrients have dominated our view on what constitutes health. How much fat does that have? Am I getting enough protein? It’s only been the past 10 years that we’ve started to really consider the significance of micronutrients. While macronutrients are essential to living, more and more experts are looking to vitamins, trace minerals and phytochemicals to truly achieve optimal health and prevent today’s most common ills and diseases.
Micronutrients are essential in:
- Maintaining and boosting the immune system
- Keeping organs healthy and working properly
- Regulating body weight
- Preventing disease (such as autoimmune disorders, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes…)
- Regulating mood
- Growth & Development
- Cognitive function
This is just a small, simplified list that continues to grow since we’ve just started to discover their benefits. Here are 5 easy tips and tricks to get the most nutrients into your diet.
1. Reduce your cooking time and heat
Why? The longer the cooking time, the less nutrients. Raw vegetables, in general, have the highest nutrients but lightly steaming them can increase your overall vegetable intake and nutrient absorption.
Steamed vegetables such as broccoli, for example, are easier to chew (and digest) than raw broccoli, making it easier for your body to absorb more nutrients. An extreme example of this would be flax seeds. These miracle seeds are wonderful, unfortunately, our teeth can’t chew through the tough shell which means it’ll likely pass through the system intact without releasing any of the benefits inside its shell. Grinding flaxseeds (a coffee grinder works perfect) allows us to access and absorb these nutrients.
How to: Bring water to a boil, add the vegetables, cover, reduce heat and simmer for the least amount of time until tender.
2. Keep it colorful
Why? Phytochemicals (only found in plants) are often expressed in the plant’s color. Not only is adding color to your dishes visually appealing, expanding the spectrum of colors will ensure you’re getting a wide range of nutrients. This is another reason why overcooking should be avoided since the lack of color indicates the loss of nutrients.
How to: Make it a habit to include colorful foods such as purple cabbage, carrots, red peppers and greens in each meal. The more colorful, the more variety, the better!
3. Buy frozen foods
Why? Seasonal foods tend to be more nutrient dense. If you don’t have access to seasonal foods or a farmers’ market, frozen fruits and vegetables are a surprisingly good option. The average nutritional loss is 5% for freezing and foods are usually frozen at their peak ripeness, which = more nutrients.
How to: Thaw in the fridge or kitchen counter before steaming to avoid excess heat and cooking.
4. Steaming with water – Drink up or cut back
Why? Vitamins and minerals leach into the water used to boil or simmer vegetables.
How to: You can either use the least amount of water possible so that the vegetable reabsorbs the water or use the remaining liquid in sauces or soups.
5. Add healthy raw fat
Why? If you find yourself starving after having just a salad it could be because a slice of tomato and iceberg lettuce isn’t cutting it… nor should it. This is a common problem for those trying to increase whole, plant foods in their diet. Healthy fat from raw, unprocessed plants can help boost your energy, keep you satisfied, provide you with essential nutrients and increase their absorption.
How to: Add these to your daily diet – Avocados, seeds, raw nuts, sesame seed paste (tahini), coconut, and olives.
*Tip: Keep a few mason jars on your dining table with different seeds such as hemp and pumpkin seeds next to the salt and pepper. This way you can easily sprinkle your food or salad to enhance the flavor and reap the nutritional benefits on a daily basis.
Check out this great recipe from Kimberly Snyder that incorporates most of these tips to make a delicious, easy, decadent meal for less than $6 and under 10 minutes to make!by