Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals that promote heart health. Here are just a few of the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables and some of their functions.
Vitamin A - Vision, Bone Growth, Dental Health
B Vitamins - Impact Metabolism, Antibodies, Energy Production, Growth, Reproduction
Vitamins C and E - Important Antioxidants to Prevent Cell Damage from Free Radicals
Vitamin K - Critical Role in Blood Clotting
Calcium - Bone Health, Muscle Contraction Magnesium - Muscle Relaxation, Blood Clotting, Insulin Secretion
Potassium - Essential Role in Heart Function
However, fruits and vegetables can be very fragile when it comes to cooking and preparation. How you prepare fruits and vegetables, such as how long they are exposed to heat and water, affect nutrient content.
Water-soluble vitamins, such as B vitamins and vitamin C, are especially at risk of being leached out of the fruits and vegetables into the cooking water during preparation. You can preserve the nutrient losses by using the cooking liquid in soups or sauces. Steaming or microwaving vegetables are cooking methods that preserve nutrients.
Here are two tips to get the most nutrition from your fruits and vegetables:
1. Retain the Peel
When you peel fruits and vegetables you throw away a large chunk of their nutritional value. Such as a large dietary fiber loss when you throw out an apple skin, along with vitamin C, and various other minerals.
You may be tempted to throw out produce skin due to pesticides. Instead opt to thoroughly wash your produce to remove potential contaminants. If you are especially concerned, consider selecting organic produce.
2. Cook Before Chopping
Don’t chop your fruits and vegetables before cooking. The larger exposed surface area increases nutrient loses. A study found that carrots left whole when cooked retained 25% more of certain nutrients. This is likely due to the increased surface area exposed for nutrients to leach out of vegetables while they are in water. A taste test was also completed and the carrots that were cooked whole were preferred based on flavor. Cooking carrots whole preserves nutrients and natural sugars that impact flavor. So, chop after cooking.
Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides clients step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so they can live life and enjoy their family for years to come. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques. She can be found on Twitter @lisanelsonrd and Facebook at hearthealthmadeeasy.