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How can you choose, prepare, and combine foods to get the most nutrition from what you eat?

Clean-eating, raw, juicing, organic… with so many types of nutrition available to us, it’s hard to know what’s best. The answer is more complex than just picking one way of healthy eating. Here’s exactly how to get the most nutrition from your meals.

How should you prepare different types of food?

Every food ingredient contains different vitamins and minerals, but how you prepare the food has an effect on the bioavailability of those nutrients. For some food, this means raw or juiced. For others, it could mean steamed or roasted.

Some ingredients benefit from being broken down by chopping, crushing, or blending. Use these techniques for fruits and vegetables to break down the cell walls of the plant. Crush or chop garlic and onion to release important enzymes.

Soak grains and beans (whether or not you will be cooking them) to reduce their phytic acid. This compound can affect how well your body absorbs the minerals in the beans and grains.

How should you store your food?

Use different parts of your kitchen to maximise how much nutrition you get from your home cooked meals.

Remember that heat and light can degrade the nutrients in fruit and vegetables. Store all vegetables and leafy greens in the fridge. The exception is root vegetables, which should be kept at room temperature. Store fruits (including tomatoes and avocados) at room temperature and away from direct sunlight. A fruit bowl in a shaded part of the kitchen is ideal. You'll see it regularly - which will encourage you to eat more fruit - but the produce will stay fresh.

Do you chop fresh vegetables and store them in the fridge that way? Squeeze some lemon juice over them and make sure the container is air tight. The vitamin C from the lemon will slow down the decaying process and keep chopped vegetables fresher for longer.

Herbs are a wonderful source of nutrition. Buy fresh herbs, and use this clever trick to keep them bursting with health benefits. Chop them, sprinkle them into ice cube trays, add a little water, and then freeze the herbs.

Foods which are high in Vitamin B, C, and folate should be eaten raw whenever possible. This includes seeds, peas, avocado, bell peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Try shredding them and eating as a salad.

Which foods are most nutritious when they are cooked?

Many foods lose some nutrition when they are cooked. But others actually benefit from the cooking process. The lycopene in tomatoes increases by around 25% when they are boiled. And the beta carotene in red, yellow, and orange vegetables is boosted by cooking.

Can you combine foods to boost the nutrients?

Did you know that some vitamins are fat-soluble? If you combine foods containing these vitamins with some dietary fat you will absorb more nutrition. One tasty example is eggs with mushrooms, spinach, and sweet potato all cooked in a little butter or coconut oil.

Combining iron with Vitamin C is another great strategy. Pair spinach, kale, or lentils with lemon juice, orange slices, strawberries, or fresh chilli.

Your basic strategy for the healthiest fresh diet

Eat a wide variety of fresh, local produce and try to eat a colourful array of fruits and vegetables. Eat a combination of raw and cooked food. Buy fresh, but don’t discount frozen vegetables. A varied, healthy diet that you enjoy eating is key for long term health and weight management.

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