Add a healthy twist to your cooking

From eating pasta al dente to heating up your tomatoes, here’s a handy guide to ensure that you are getting the best in your meals
So you’ve filled your trolley with foods that are good for you but did you know certain ways of prepping and cooking produce can boost its health properties?

DON’T DICE YOUR VEGGIES

Many nutrients in vegetables are water soluble, meaning when you boil them they leach out some of their goodness.So, cut vegetables into large pieces. The less surface area exposed, the fewer vitamins will escape during cooking. Use the water you’ve cooked your veggies in to make a soup or gravy -so you won’t have lost any goodness.

HEAT UP YOUR TOMATOES

Tomatoes are a great source of the heart-healthy and cancer-fighting phytonutrient lycopene. Cooking tomatoes increases the lycopene content. Try drizzling with olive oil, roasting and serving as a side dish. The downside?
Heating decreases vitamin C content.So, eat a variety of fresh, tinned and cooked tomatoes.

LEAVE CHOPPED GARLIC TO STAND

The enzyme alliinase, thought to have anti-cancer properties, is released when garlic is crushed or chopped. Heat suppresses the enzyme, which reduces its health benefits. But when garlic is left to stand about five to 10 minutes before cooking, this seems to stop some of the negative effects of heating.

LEAVE THE SKIN ON

HOME-COOKED CHIPS

Leaving the skin on your potato wedges boosts your spud’s nutrients. The skin contains fibre and it’s where around 80 per cent of the iron and around 35 per cent of the vitamin C in potatoes is found.

WILT YOUR SPINACH

Around one in four women is thought to have low iron levels, so eating green leafy veggies like spinach is a good way to boost your stores. It may be all the rage to eat raw, Spinach will have more available iron when wilted. Try spritsing with lemon juice before serving as the vitamin C helps your body to better absorb dietary iron.

COOK PASTA AL DENTE

Pasta, as a refined carbohydrate, breaks down into sugars very quickly as part of the digestive process. This can lead to blood-sugar surges. The solution? Cook it aldente. The firmer the pasta, the harder your digestive system has to work to break it down and therefore the slower the release of sugars into the bloodstream.

DON’T FRY SALMON

Salmon is packed with heart healthy omega 3 fats, but these valuable nutrients can be lost in frying.Omega 3 fats have a low smoke point. At a high temperature, they become susceptible to free radical damage, which lowers their benefits. Try baking or poaching instead.

USE YOUR VEGGIES FROM ROOT TO TIP

You’d be better off chomping on -rather than chucking out -the extremities of your veggies. Celery and fennel fronds, beetroot leaves, broccoli stems, and the tops of spring onions and leeks are all packed with nutrients, such as potassium and B vitamins. So, add them to omelettes, soups and stews.

RINSE -DON’T SOAK -YOUR VEGGIES

It’s important to wash your veggies before using, but don’t leave them to soak. Vitamin C and B are water-soluble so if you soak vegetables some of them leach out. Rinse veg under cold water just before cooking or serving. If you have to leave prepared veg in a pan, use the water to make a stock or soup.

TEAR UP YOUR LETTUCE

Ripping up your lettuce a day before eating it can double its antioxidant content. It’s thought that the live lettuce responds to being torn by releasing antioxidant compounds designed to protect itself from attack. Try tearing the lettuce, patting it dry with paper towels, then storing in the fridge in a plastic bag.

SERVE YOUR VEGGIES WITH SOME FAT

Serving vegetables with a small amount of fat makes it easier for the body to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K, plus some phytochemicals like betacarotene. Unsaturated fats like olive or rapeseed oil are best, so try stir-frying veg or serving salad with a dressing using one of these oils. Some studies show your body will absorb three times as much betacarotene from a salad that includes oil.

LOVE YOUR PAN LIDS

The longer you cook veggies, the more vitamins will be lost, so keep your pan covered to hold in heat to reduce cooking time ­ and increase nutrients.

EAT COLD POTATOES

When potatoes are cooked and allowed to go cold, it changes the chemical structure of some of the carbohydrate into what nutritionists call resistant starch.This resistant starch acts like fibre in the gut, making you feel fuller for longer and improving your blood-sugar control. So, eat your spuds cold in a potato salad with low-fat yoghurt, creme fraiche or a balsamic vinaigrette.

KEEP CARROTS WHOLE

A study by scientists at Newcastle University found that boiling carrots whole meant they retained 25 per cent more falcarinol (a compound thought to have anticancer properties) than carrots chopped before cooking.So, get out a larger saucepan, or choose mini carrots.

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