If you like eating healthy foods, like I do, then I bet when new research comes out about superfoods, you automatically try to find ways to add these healthy foods into your diet. But there’s one small catch you need to be aware of: you can easily DESTROY all the health benefits of your superfoods. How? Here are five superfoods you may be destroying, and the best ways to keep these healthy foods healthy.
1. You’re Cutting Up Carrots Before You Boil Them
Planning to make vegetable soup on a cold winter day? Add as many veggies to the mix as you like, but when you add carrots, don’t cut these healthy foods first. Carrots contain a special antioxidant pigment called beta-carotene, which helps absorb dangerous free radicals, which can cause inflammation in your body. Then, once in your body, beta-carotene converts into the essential vitamin A. In fact, during World War II, British soldiers used to eat carrots because of their medicinal properties.
But if you’re used to cutting up your carrots before you boil them, you may be destroying the nutrients in this superfood! A recent study found that boiling carrots whole, rather than cutting them up first, preserves the falcarinol in carrots—a cancer-fighting nutrient. In fact, the study found that rats who were fed carrots that were boiled whole were 25% less likely to develop tumors. The researchers suspect that boiling the cut-up carrots caused the carrots’ cellular walls to break down, releasing the amount of falcarinol it contains.
The Fix: Boil these carrots whole and cut them afterwards, or enjoy large chunks of carrots in your soup! That’s the real way to make sure you’re eating healthy food rights!
2. You’re Eating the Wrong Kind of Apples
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? The saying should actually go “these types of apples keep the doctor away.” That’s because not all apples are created equally. While apples have been shown to contain important phytonutrients and antioxidants, which are associated with a lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, they’re also part of the “dirty dozen” list of 12 foods that are sprayed with a lot of dangerous pesticides. Some of these pesticides can be carcinogens; they’ve also been shown to wreck with our body’s hormone and endocrine system and can affect the nervous system, skin, and eyes, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Fix: There are six types of apples that contain the most dietary flavonoids which can boost your health and even reduce morbidity, according to studies: Fuji, red delicious, gala, liberty, northern spy, and golden delicious. Since these six will still be sprayed with pesticides, buy these healthy foods organic.
3. You Left Your Spinach Sitting Around
Yes, spinach is one of the dark green healthy foods that should be added to your list of superfoods—but only if you avoid the mistake of letting them get too cold. Spinach contains healthy amounts of vitamin C and folate—a great superfood to eat during the upcoming flu and cold season—but if you let this green veggie sit in the fridge too long, you can kiss your healthy nutrients away.
The Fix: Buy spinach fresh, and eat it soon after you buy it. Don’t let it sit in the fridge for days, and don’t eat it hot, either; the nutrients will be better preserved when this superfood is slightly colder than room temperature. Plus, when you wash this healthy food, don’t soak it in a bowl of water, as studies show that soaking veggies can remove more than just dirt and bugs—it also removes the nutrients you want to stay preserved in these healthy foods!
4. You’re Not Mixing Your Veggies
As kids, many of us hated when our foods used to touch each other on our plates—hence why our parents would purchase plates with built-in separators. But this rationale is completely wrong, because many healthy foods actually need to be mixed together to reap the most benefits! Mixing avocado with other dark green leafy vegetables, for example, can increase the absorption of carotenoids in avocado by 200–400%! Plus, studies show that eating tomatoes mixed with olive oil can boost the lycopene content in tomatoes and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease much more than if you were just eating tomatoes on their own.
The Fix: Leave your childhood behind and mix together the healthy foods on your plate!
5. You’re Peeling Away These Health Benefits
If a fruit has a peel, the first thing we do is peel it, right? Well, our parents might have taught us wrong, after all, as many healthy foods contain the most nutrients in the peel. Orange peel, for example, has four times more fiber than the entire orange itself, and apple peels contain 87% more cancer-fighting phytochemicals than the apple itself. Cucumber peels contain a chemical that helps build collagen, called silica, which can help preserve your healthy skin. Plus, while watermelon peels are probably not tasty, the white rind that you throw away is where the amino acid citrulline lies, which helps improve your body’s circulation.
The Fix: Start eating fruit peels—that’s the best part of these healthy foods. While it’s easy to eat cucumber and apple peels, orange and watermelon peels sound much less appealing. Instead, you can blend these peels into your smoothies to avoid the bitter taste.
Many healthy foods really do come with a whole host of health benefits, but only if you eat them right. Don’t forget that the way you cook and prepare these superfoods can make a big difference, so yes, add these healthy foods to your diet—just add them the right way.
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Boyer, J. and Hai Liu, R., “Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits,” Journal of Nutrition. May 12, 2004; 3: 5.
Daly, A., “6 Ways You’re Ruining Superfoods,” Women’s Health Magazine web site, October 30, 2013; http://www.womenshealthmag.com/nutrition/unhealthy-superfoods.
“Human Health Issues,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency web site; http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/human.htm, last accessed November 4, 2013.
Tobianah, V., “The Fruit Peels You Should Never Throw Away,” Foods4BetterHealth web site, July 3, 2013; http://www.foods4betterhealth.com/the-fruit-peels-you-should-never-throw-away-2784.
“Avocados,” The World’s Healthiest Foods web site; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5, last accessed August 27, 2013
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