How often do we hear, “eat healthy”, “eat nutritious foods”? Are there small changes you can make to boost your nutrition without giving up every fun food? I like to focus on what you can add to your diet to make it healthier rather than focus on taking things away. An article in Environmental Nutrition has some simple, easy ways to boost your nutrition by focusing on foods that are full of nutrition. How can you Make Your Diet More Nutrient-Dense? Some suggestions adapted from this article:
Organic Milk – is organic milk healthier? It is more expensive but is it worth it? A study in the British Journal of Nutrition noted that organic milk has more of the heart healthy fat, omega-3, a lot more, 56% more. Milk is not a great source of iron or vitamin E but these were higher in organic milk. Not to mention the healthier aspect of no hormones and no pesticides in the milk. Why a higher nutritional value? They believe it is because the cows are grazing in the pasture. One of my students researched organic foods and recommended that if you can only afford one organic food, splurge on organic milk. Prices vary greatly, shop around for the best price.
Salads – these can be healthy if one focuses on healthier greens. Choose dark greens like spinach. When choosing a salad mix in the grocery store, choose the mix with the darker greens. Then when home, give the salad mix a nutrition boost by adding cup up carrots, green pepper, mushrooms, olives, cucumber, celery, and tomatoes. Even sprinkle on some ground up nuts, or some dried cranberries. Then to ensure you can absorb these nutrients forgo the fat-free dressing. Choose low-fat salad dressing or vinaigrette made with olive oil. You need some fat to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids in the salad.
Frozen Fruit and Vegetables– I often get asked if frozen fruit and vegetables are as healthy as fresh. And it is. The article notes foods like strawberries and broccoli are harvested at their peak and then quickly frozen so they retain their nutrients. Frozen fruits and vegetables can have an even higher nutrient content as shipping and storage can lead to some nutrient loss. For example, vitamin C in frozen corn, green beans and blueberries is actually higher than in fresh versions. Doesn’t mean you should switch to frozen over fresh but it does mean you can enjoy frozen fruits and vegetables and not worry about the nutrient content.
Cooked vegetables – most people think cooking destroys nutrients and it can. But cooking can enhance absorption of antioxidants like lutein which is more available in spaghetti sauce than a fresh tomato. An article in Food Chemistry found that steaming kale enhanced its antioxidant activity. But don’t boil veggies as nutrients can leach out into the water. Steaming or microwaving are best for nutrient retention.
Making a smoothie this week, add some frozen fruit. Have a salad this week, loaded with dark greens, cut up veggies and some dressing with fat in it. Enjoy some steamed or microwaved vegetables. And try some organic milk.