If you're going to make the effort to eat your fruit and veggies, make sure you do their nutrients and your body justice and cook them properly.
I already knew that some foods are best eaten raw, while others can better stand up to the cooking process. But while researching cooking techniques for The Real Food Grocery Guide, I learned these five fascinating tips that will help you get the most out of your produce.
1. Chop garlic at least 10 minutes before cooking it.
Garlic is well-known to provide a plethora of health benefits, including a protective effect against cancer. Its anticarcinogenic properties are believed to be due to the compound allicin, which is created when two chemicals in the garlic mix after it is chopped, chewed, or crushed. To prevent this compound from being degraded in the heat of a hot pan, chop or crush your garlic cloves 10 minutes before you plan to cook it. If you throw garlic into the pan before that, sure, you'll still get that delicious flavor, but you might miss some of the disease-preventing benefits.
2. Heat, chill, and reheat potatoes to lower their glycemic load.
It's true that potatoes have a higher glycemic load than most other veggies, but you can prepare them wisely to minimize their effect on your blood sugar. It all comes down to meal prep. Cook them however you wish—baked, mashed, boiled—then refrigerate 24 hours, and reheat if you desire. (You could try this Stuffed Sweet Potato with Black Beans and Avocado.) The cool temperature converts the rapidly digested carbs into starches that are broken down more slowly and are gentler on the body. Research suggests this technique can reduce the impact potatoes have on blood sugar by about 25 percent.
3. Always cook mushrooms.
Mushrooms provide wonderful immune-boosting benefits and are a great addition to a healthy diet. The catch? As long as they're cooked. Mushrooms contain compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients when consumed raw, but not when they're cooked. They also contain some toxins, some of which are considered carcinogens, which again, research shows are destroyed by the cooking heat. Try, broiling, grilling, or sautéing them.
4. Don't throw away beet greens.
You probably eat beets (like in this superfood kale and golden beet salad), which are nutritious in their own right. But the leafy green stems that often get chopped off and discarded are even more nutritious. For example, beet greens are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K. So, next time you buy beets, make sure you grab the bunches with the leaves still attached. Simply cut them off with about one inch still attached to the beets and use within a day or two. You can chop up the leaves and the stems, sauté with garlic and olive oil for a delicious side dish that tastes similar to spinach or try one of these unbeatable beet greens recipes.
5. Don't peel sweet potatoes, kiwis, or cucumbers.
The skin of these fruits and veggies are not only edible, they are more antioxidant-rich than the flesh underneath. They're loaded with fiber too. For example, a recent study indicates that eating the skin of a kiwi triples the fiber intake compared to merely eating the fruit's meat, according to the California Kiwifruit Commission. By not peeling the skin, you preserve much of the vitamin C content as well. So choose organic when you can, give 'em a good wash, and keep the skin on. (And in case you're wondering, you can't really taste the fuzzy kiwi skin when it's sliced.)