Some individuals say you’re what you eat. But it could be extra correct to say that you’re what you digest. After all, simply because sure vitamins are considerable in a meals doesn’t imply that they are going to be absorbed by your physique. If vitamins simply go in a single finish and out the opposite, they don’t offer you many advantages.

The excellent news is that there are some particular methods of making ready and mixing meals that may improve nutrient bioavailability. And how meals is grown, in addition to how lengthy it takes to get to your kitchen counter, additionally has a huge effect on dietary high quality.

In this text, we’ll have a look at varied strategies of meals sourcing, preparation, and mixing, that may both maximize or impair vitamin.

Food Sourcing & Storage

Picking fruit off a tree

This could also be apparent, however meals will get its vitamins from the solar, soil, and environment. Many research have proven that the identical produce can have very completely different dietary profiles relying on its “terroir,” which isn’t a scary phrase or a elaborate little French canine, however means a meals’s full pure surroundings. Even two peaches from the identical tree can differ dramatically in beta-carotene, relying on what department they grew on.

That full pure surroundings additionally contains the farming strategies, together with whether or not and what sorts of chemical substances are used to fertilize the plant and shield it from pathogens and competitors. Pesticides used within the rising season can scale back the meals’s dietary punch. And the residues that make it into your physique may cause all types of well being issues.

Organic Produce

To maximize the good thing about the plant meals you eat, look for organically grown and native produce at any time when attainable. Organic meals might have increased concentrations of vitamins, particularly these all-important antioxidants. And they’re much less doubtless to comprise pesticides and pesticide residues.

Local Produce

Local produce, whereas it will not be natural, additionally has important advantages. As the nutrient composition of fruits and veggies degrade after choosing, native produce might be a lot brisker than the stuff that travels world wide in refrigerated ships, planes, and vehicles. Also, since shelf-life isn’t the first consideration, native growers can present extra uncommon (and infrequently extremely nutritious and scrumptious) sorts of fruits and veggies that ripen faster or bruise extra simply than iceberg lettuce and tasteless tomatoes. And whereas some small farmers use season extension strategies like greenhouses, shade fabric, and excessive tunnels, a lot of the produce you’ll get from an area grower might be in season — one other method to guarantee maximal dietary worth.

Home-Grown Produce

Of course, one of the best, and positively probably the most native, type of produce is the type you develop your self or get from a neighbor with a inexperienced thumb. One attainable “silver lining” of the pandemic is that it has led to a dramatic revival in yard gardening. For our article on how to begin a meals backyard and take management of your meals, click on right here.

Frozen Produce

Another high-quality supply of nutritionally dense vegetables and fruit is your grocer’s freezer part. Frozen vegetables and fruit are picked at peak ripeness after which are flash-frozen, which preserves their vitamins remarkably properly. Research revealed within the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2015 in contrast the dietary content material of meals that had been frozen or refrigerated. For many nutritional vitamins, there was no distinction. With the exception of beta-carotene, which degraded within the frozen produce, the nutrient ranges in frozen meals had been “comparable to and occasionally higher than” the recent refrigerated ones. Of course, you’ll be able to at all times develop your individual, or purchase recent, and freeze the produce your self. Here’s our useful how-to article on meals storage and preservation.

Food Preparation

closeup of woman slicing organic tomatoes

How you put together your fruits and veggies can even have an effect on how a lot vitamin you get from them. It seems that being slightly tough in your produce is usually a good factor. Cutting or chopping greens wounds their flesh, triggering a defensive response. The veggie releases polyphenols to forestall additional injury.

To perceive why this works, it’s useful to suppose like a head of lettuce (I imply, it does have a head, so it should suppose, proper?). You’re hanging out within the floor, minding your individual enterprise, taking in some rays, and alongside comes a bunny rabbit who begins chomping you. What are you going to do?

You can’t run away (darn roots!). You can’t disguise, and you may’t combat again. But you may make your self style bitter, so Flopsy decides that another leafy inexperienced might be a way more nice meal. The plant (not simply lettuce, but additionally celery, parsnip, and others) pumps out nasty (to rabbits, anyway) polyphenols, which, remarkably sufficient, can assist shield people from coronary heart illness, sort 2 diabetes, and a few cancers.

Foods with excessive concentrations of vitamin C ought to be eaten proper after reducing, as a result of the polyphenols work together with the vitamin C, and might use it up earlier than it makes its method into our tissues.

The Benefit of Preparing Alliums

Another class of meals that loves us again once we crush it are the alliums, which comprise strong-smelling organosulfur compounds. It’s a lot better to chop or crush garlic than to eat it complete (not that you just had been contemplating popping them like sweet) as a result of the injury to the bulb releases an enzyme referred to as allicin, which has the nasty behavior of placing an Elvis Costello music into my head each time I learn the phrase. This enzyme turns the garlic right into a nutrient manufacturing unit in overdrive, releasing copious quantities of health-promoting chemical substances for our profit. Onions additionally launch organosulfur compounds when their cell partitions are damaged, which is why we cry whereas chopping them.

But right here’s a little-known reality about onions and garlic: as soon as you narrow or crush them, their dietary energy will increase for the subsequent 10 or so minutes. For most profit, depart them alone for at the least a couple of minutes after chopping or crushing, earlier than cooking them or consuming them uncooked.

Fermented Foods

Fermenting is one other method of accelerating good vitamins in some meals, and has the additional advantage of decreasing phytates. That’s a victory for dietary bioavailability, as phytates can inhibit the absorption of sure minerals. Researchers working to enhance dietary outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa found in 2018 that fermentation elevated enzyme exercise in cereal grains and legumes. That made vitamins extra accessible for human uptake.

Also, antioxidant properties of fermented meals are elevated in contrast to their unfermented counterparts due to elevated vitamin C exercise. (Here’s our article on the advantages of fermentation, together with some easy-to-follow directions to get began with sauerkraut and plant-based yogurt.)

Soaking Grains and Legumes

That identical 2018 African research discovered that soaking grains and legumes began the germination course of and decreased their phytate content material — making their vitamins extra bioavailable. Beans are already health-promoting superstars; they’re one of many meals most strongly related to longevity. Soaking them so they start to germinate makes them much more potent nutrient powerhouses.

Prepare Nutritious Meals by Sprouting

The well being meals motion has touted sprouting (say “touted sprouting” 5 occasions quick) for many many years. We’re beginning to see the science to assist among the claims of sprouting advocates. A complete 2019 overview of the science of sprouted grains appeared in Nutrients Journal and included the fascinating factoid that fruit flies who got supplemental wheatgrass photographs lived, on common, 6 days longer than their cousins within the wheatgrass-deprived management group. I doubt the equal impact happens in people – but when it did, that may add about 9 years to our life expectancy.

Sprouted beans, grains, nuts, and seeds are extra nutritious and digestible than their non-sprouted counterparts. They comprise extra fiber, and sprouted complete grains particularly are increased in protein. Also, sprouted meals set off elevated manufacturing of the neurotransmitter GABA, which performs a key function in regulating temper. Low GABA has been linked to each depressed and manic states. Here’s how to begin rising your individual sprouts. Whether you share your wheatgrass along with your native fruit flies is completely up to you.

As an added bonus, sprouted grains and beans are simpler to digest, and are much less flatugenic, which is to say, much less musically inspiring. Here are some directions for soaking beans and grains for superior nutrient absorption.

Make Sure You Soak Your Rice

One grain, particularly, ought to be soaked earlier than cooking. Rice, sadly, can comprise excessive ranges of arsenic, which is a Group-A carcinogen and one of many worst pollution discovered at Superfund websites. Even natural brown rice can comprise worrying concentrations of arsenic. But research present that soaking the rice in a selected method, which we share on this article, can take away a lot of the arsenic content material.

Raw or Cooked?

stir-frying variety of veggies

Whether uncooked or cooked meals is more healthy is among the heated (ha!) debates within the vegan group. I’m blissful to provide the definitive reply: Yes.

Some meals are extra nutritious of their uncooked state, whereas others are higher for us after having their proteins denatured by warmth. For this dialogue, we’ll stick to high-level ideas. (If you desire a deep dive on the subject, click on right here.)


One of probably the most highly effective cancer-preventing and cancer-fighting vitamins is sulforaphane, which you may get from uncooked cruciferous greens like broccoli, cabbage, and the heavyweight sulforaphane champion, broccoli sprouts. To activate the sulforaphane, the veggies’ cell partitions should be damaged, both by reducing or chewing.

So that does imply it is best to by no means eat steamed broccoli or stir-fried cabbage? Not in any respect. Here are just a few hacks that may get your cooked cruciferous pals’ sulforaphane ranges to rival their uncooked state. First, you’ll be able to sprinkle some powdered mustard seeds in your cooked broccoli. Even a small quantity prompts the sulforaphane. Second, you’ll be able to mix your cooked crucifers with slightly shredded uncooked cabbage. Third, when you plan forward, you’ll be able to carry out Dr. Greger’s “hack and hold” strategy of reducing the veggies 40 minutes or extra earlier than cooking, after which you’ll warmth them to your coronary heart’s content material with out destroying the sulforaphane. And fourth, you’ll be able to combine just a few uncooked arugula leaves into your cooked (cabbage household) veggies.


Foods excessive in water-soluble B nutritional vitamins and vitamin C, like leafy greens, broccoli, citrus fruits, candy potatoes, and tomatoes, will retain probably the most vitamins when eaten uncooked or added on the very finish of cooking. Heat will draw out the water from these fruits and veggies, and with that water, lots of the water-soluble nutritional vitamins. A 2017 research out of Korea discovered that boiled and steamed chard retained completely no vitamin C. Zero. So when you do cook dinner your greens and different B- and C-rich meals, achieve this in a soup or stew, or save the broth or water for later use. Don’t pour your nutritional vitamins down the drain.

On the opposite hand, fat-soluble nutritional vitamins equivalent to A, D, E, and Ok are greatest eaten cooked. These vitamins truly stabilize when cooked, and in some instances, turn out to be extra bioavailable.

Nutrient & Food Combining

Food combining - A bowl of plant-based foods that are combined for maximal nutrient absorption

There are loads of concepts about meals combining on the market, and most of them are utterly unsupported by science. For instance, vegetarians don’t want to pair beans and grains at each meal to equal the supposedly “perfect protein” profile of an egg. And you aren’t going to confuse your digestive system by combining fruits with greens. You are additionally permitted to drink water with meals – it gained’t dilute your abdomen’s digestive juices to the purpose of impairment until you drink a quart of water with a meal, which isn’t really useful.

But some ideas of meals combining are legitimate, and following them will offer you elevated absorption of key vitamins.

So let’s discuss what meals to eat with different meals for most dietary profit. We’ve already seen that powdered mustard seeds love cruciferous veggies, however that’s simply the tip of the broccolini. Let’s look at how to enhance consumption of iron, vitamin D, and different fat-soluble nutritional vitamins by sensible combining.


To get sufficient iron, eat iron-rich meals like leafy greens, chickpeas, tofu, lentils, and oats with meals excessive in vitamin C. If you eat a plant-based food plan, you’re getting the non-heme type of iron, which isn’t as bioavailable because the heme iron present in animal tissue. The vitamin C will increase the absorption and bioavailability of iron within the physique. Examples embrace lentil soup with a squeeze of lemon juice, cooked oats with recent strawberries, and sauteed spinach with pink peppers. There’s additionally some proof that meals excessive in beta-carotene can even support in nonheme iron absorption.

Garlic and onions additionally enhance the supply of nonheme iron when eaten with iron-containing meals. No, I’m not going to provide you with a recipe for oatmeal with cinnamon and freshly sliced uncooked garlic on high. Now that I’ve stated it, possibly it will likely be a viral TikTook sensation by subsequent week! But you’ll be able to profit from this impact by consuming savory grains with cooked or uncooked onion and garlic dishes.

There are additionally meals that inhibit iron absorption, together with meals containing excessive concentrations of calcium (some leafy greens and soy meals), tannins (present in espresso and tea), and unsoaked grains or beans (that phytate once more).

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is among the most vital vitamins that many people want extra of. Since it’s produced by the physique when daylight hits the pores and skin, these of us with principally indoor lives are liable to deficiency. It’s essential for calcium absorption and is a vital nutrient for our immune methods. Research has proven that low ranges of vitamin D are related to poor COVID-19 outcomes. To get your vitamin D from sources aside from the solar, you could want to complement. (More on vitamin D and the way a lot you want, right here.)

Vitamin D is a group participant — it wants nutritional vitamins K1 and K2 to do its job of regulating calcium metabolism for bone and coronary heart well being, and K2, particularly, appears to increase absorption of D. K2 is one other nutrient that’s straightforward to be poor in, until you’re a fan of natto. If you’re not acquainted, natto is a fermented soybean dish that’s a breakfast staple in Japan, and provokes very sturdy opinions starting from love to, properly, not love. Since these nutritional vitamins spend loads of their time and vitality shuttling calcium across the physique, you need to be sure you’re getting adequate calcium alongside along with your D and Ks. Some examples of calcium, D, and Ok combos embrace tempeh with low oxalate leafy greens and mushrooms, or broccoli with tahini sauce.

Fat-Soluable Vitamins

All fat-soluble nutritional vitamins, together with, A, D, E, and Ok, ought to be taken or eaten with a fats supply for most absorption. Some meals that comprise these nutritional vitamins already comprise fats, equivalent to nuts and seeds. Other low-fat meals excessive in fat-soluble nutritional vitamins or their precursors (equivalent to beta carotene) ought to be mixed with a fats supply: high your candy potato with guacamole, or drizzle slightly additional virgin olive oil over your grilled bell peppers.

5 Delicious Recipes That Showcase the Power of Food Combining

One factor about meals combining is that not solely does it optimize nutrient absorption, but it surely additionally brings collectively flavors and textures — creating probably the most scrumptious combos! Salads tackle an entire new which means with the Warm Kale Edamame Salad with Shiitake Bacon. The Mexican Bean Soup is full of conventional Mexican substances to maximize iron absorption. The conventional Club Sandwich will get a significant revision, making it environmentally pleasant, wholesome, and scrumptious. Bone constructing at its greatest comes with the vitamin D, Ok, and calcium packed Mushroom Pecan Burger. Finally, a candy deal with for all nutrient absorption, Pumpkin Chia Pudding will get a gold star for its iron, beta carotene, and vitamin D powers.

1. Warm Kale Edamame Salad with Shiitake Bacon

Food combining recipe - Warm kale edamame salad with shiitake bacon

This might be referred to as the “Bone-Building Bowl” — it’s completely full of vitamins that assist sturdy bones. Earthy kale is loaded with absorbable calcium and vitamin Ok. Edamame is full of plant-based protein and calcium. Shiitake mushrooms may probably have vitamin D (soak them within the solar for a bit to assist them maximize their vitamin D potential). Enjoy this refreshing and flavorful salad understanding your skeleton will thanks!

2. Mexican Bean Soup

Food combining recipe - Mexican bean soup in bowl

Did you realize you could maximize the absorption of iron just by including a wide range of scrumptious and nutrient-dense substances to your recipes? It won’t be one thing you consider as you’re creating recipes, but it surely’s one thing you in all probability already do day-after-day.

For instance, substances historically utilized in Mexican meals usually embrace beans, tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Beans are full of iron and tomatoes and peppers are full of vitamin C, which may enhance iron absorption five-fold. Onions and different allium veggies like garlic and shallots can even enhance iron absorption by up to seven occasions!

Finally, pink and orange peppers have carotenoids, which may additional enhance iron absorption by up to 3 times. Now you’ve gotten a lot to say when somebody asks you the way you get your iron from plant-based meals. Enjoy this flavorful Mexican soup as a facet, an appetizer, or a full meal!

Three. Club Sandwiches

Food combining recipe - Club sandwich on cutting board

Optimize each your iron and your beta carotene absorption in a single tasty membership sandwich! The vitamin C in tomatoes helps to maximize the absorption of iron from the whole-grain bread and hummus (natural chickpeas!) whereas the wholesome plant-based fat from sesame within the tahini maximize absorption of beta carotene within the candy potatoes. Did somebody say wholesome membership sandwich? Sign us up!

four. Mushroom Pecan Burgers

Food combining recipe - Mushroom pecan burgers on cutting board

Bone-building at its greatest—these burgers present vitamin D from the mushrooms, calcium from the tahini, and vitamin Ok from the miso and parsley. Oh, and did we point out? They’re additionally unbelievably scrumptious with their irresistible umami taste and nice texture. Make additional and retailer them within the freezer so you’ve gotten them for weeks to come!

5. Pumpkin Chia Pudding

Food combining recipe - Pumpkin chia pudding in serving glasses

This is a triple bonus once we’re speaking about meals combining. The iron absorption from the chia seeds is enhanced by the beta carotene and vitamin C within the pumpkin. Bones are supported by the calcium within the chia seeds and vitamin D fortified plant-based milk (look for vitamin D and calcium-fortified in whichever milk you select!). And, the omega-Three fatty acids within the chia assist to optimize beta carotene within the pumpkin. Talk a couple of nutrient-powered deal with!

Boost Your Health with Food Combining & Preparation

asian couple cooking in kitchen

With strategic meals preparation and mixing, you’ll be able to decrease the incidence of dietary deficiencies whereas additionally boosting your well being. There are some ways to do that, however finally, what’s most vital is to eat all kinds of complete plant meals each day. If you’re consuming the rainbow frequently, you shouldn’t have to fear an excessive amount of in regards to the particulars. If you need that additional little little bit of dietary excellence, choose the methods and combos which can be best and most scrumptious, and tackle the vitamins that matter probably the most to you.

Tell us within the feedback:

  • What are your favourite wholesome meals combos?
  • What’s one mixture you’re going to strive subsequent?
  • What’s one meals you’ll be able to supply domestically?

Feature picture: Nikiforova

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