Everybody needs to get nutrient rich vegetables in their diets. It doesn’t matter which dietary lifestyle you’re operating on. Whether it’s omnivorous, carnivorous, vegetarian or vegan, you still need to have your vegetables.
So why not eat the ones that have the most nutritional value?
You see, some plant-based foods are more nutritionally dense than others. We give them a score, called the “nutritional density score,” based on the balance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber in them.
So let’s say you have a salad made of iceberg lettuce, which has a nutritional density score of 18.2. That’s not horrible. It’s not great either.
But what would happen if you ate a spinach salad instead? The density score would jump over four-fold – to 86.4.
Add a little watercress, chard and parsley, and it skyrockets!
Why the big difference?
Well, your iceberg lettuce is going to have some good things in it. Calcium, potassium, vitamin C and folate. A little vitamin A and vitamin K.
But your spinach? It has a much richer nutrient profile and in greater quantities. It’s got your vitamin A, K and C. It’s got your folate, iron and potassium. It has lutein and beta carotene. It’s high in antioxidants.
And watercress. It has a perfect nutritional density score of 100. It’s a real powerhouse. And you can easily add it to so many of your meals. It can go into soups, smoothies, wraps, sauces, dips and more.
Other foods with high density scores include your dark leafy greens, red bell peppers, carrots and cabbages.
How to Supercharge the Nutritional Value of Your Foods
There is also a way to super-charge the nutritional value of foods by pairing them up. So while I’m cooking, I try my best to combine the right type of foods for each meal.
Take the spinach salad I mentioned above. I would also add some of my other favorite veggies, seeds, nuts and a small bit of a favorite organic cheese. Then I would top it all off with avocado.
I love eating avocado alone, but when you add it to a salad it reveals a super power. Avocado is a nutrient booster! The healthy fats in it increase your body’s ability to absorb beta carotenes by a factor of fifteen. Your lutein absorption also leaps by about five times.
When you eat avocado with other fruits and vegetables, it will increase your absorption of any fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients in those foods, too. So enjoy more avocado with all your meals.
Olive oil is another nutrient booster. For example, combine extra virgin olive oil and tomatoes to magnify the amount of lycopene and carotene your body absorbs. And honestly… who doesn’t love a good marinara? When you add in garlic and onion, you get even more of a boost, because the olive oil helps release bioactive compounds in these allium vegetables
And what should you do on those days when you decide to treat yourself to some grass-fed beef for dinner?
Well, there’s a reason beef and marinades work so well together. And it’s not just because marinating adds flavor and tenderness.
When meats are cooked, they release cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These compounds are linked to many types of cancer; including cancers of the breast, prostate, colon, pancreas and stomach.
But if you marinate your beef first, it can cut down on these risky chemicals.
Your best bet: Use extra virgin olive oil as your base. Then add in equal measures of garlic and onion… and about half that measure of lemon juice. This will reduce HCA production by about 70%.
Two More Supercharged Food Combinations
Omelets and frittatas are incredibly quick and easy to make – even for a bachelor like me. I actually made a small one just a few days ago in a ramekin. Perfect! But I didn’t fill it up with cheese, ham and bacon. Instead, I like to load them down with beta carotene rich vegetables like spinach, tomatoes, peppers and grated carrot.
Eating eggs with these antioxidant-rich foods enhances carotenoid absorption. Combined, they increase lutein and zeaxanthin levels by four to five times and cancer-fighting lycopene three- to eight-fold. (You can get the same results if you make a salad with carotene rich veggies and top it with a boiled egg.)
You can also get more out of your green tea by adding lemon juice. Green tea is filled with healthy phytochemicals that protect against diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease and a whole lot more.
Unfortunately, the digestion process can reduce the effectiveness of those phytochemicals. And in many cases, less than 20% actually remain after digestion.
But guess what? When combined with citrus, a much higher percentage (in the 80% to 90% range) of catechins are preserved after digestion and released into the body.
These are just a few neat tricks to boost your nutrition levels with the foods you love.
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