Leafy greens have long been considered powerful players in a healthy diet. Packed with antioxidants, healthy phytochemicals, vitamins and vital nutrients, consuming these nutritional powerhouses can be a valuable part of maintaining one’s physical and mental health and wellness. But…there’s a hitch.
It can be hard to absorb certain nutrients found in leafy greens. While they may be bursting with nutrients, it’s not likely that the body is actually benefiting from them.
There are plenty of reasons why this is. Luckily, there are also plenty of solutions. Here are 5 easy way to get more nutrition out of leafy greens!
Get A Little Help From Vitamins C and D
Here’s a little food science magic: Eating certain foods together can maximize the body’s nutrient absorption. Think of it a bit like a tasty puzzle. The right food combinations help unlock key nutrients in leafy greens so that they can be absorbed.
Partnering complementary foods enhances the bioavailability of the foods being eaten. For example, greens such as spinach are good sources of iron.
Unlike the iron found in meat (called heme iron), the iron in vegetables is nonheme and isn’t as accessible.
Pairing greens with vitamin C rich foods boost the amount of nonheme iron that is released from the greens, making it easier to absorb. Even a simple squirt of fresh lemon juice or the incorporation of chopped bell peppers can have a big impact on iron absorption.
Another excellent nutritional tag team is vitamin D and calcium. Go ahead and top that bed of spinach with a delicious baked salmon. It is good for the body and the taste buds.
Try Different Cooking Methods
How can greens be cooked in a way that balances freshness, flavor, and nutrition? Simply boiling greens can certainly get them cooked. But often times, the end result are that greens are mushy and dull.
More important than their visual and textural qualities, some vitamins, phytochemicals and nutrients can be destroyed in the cooking process. Now what?
Well, there are several methods for preparing greens that don’t include cooking the life out of them. Try steaming, stir frying, and microwaving your vegetables for both improved taste and nutrition.
Bring On the Good Fats!
What’s one way to make a healthy dish even healthier (and tastier)? Add a little fat! Studies by Iowa State University suggest that fats and oils bring more nutrition out of vegetables. Why?
Fat-soluble vitamins (such as K, A, and E) that are abundant in leafy greens are more readily absorbed with healthy fat. In fact, eating greens without the added fat means sacrificing the full nutritional benefits of consumption.
If one wants the cancer-fighting, health-preserving properties of leafy greens, avoiding fats is not an option.
Wait! This doesn’t mean that one should douse their salads in copious amounts of calorie-laden dressing.
Instead, drizzling a spinach or kale salad with a bit soybean oil or tahini can do the trick. Next time you are ready to dig into some greens, don’t pass on the vinaigrette!
Stress is a critical factor in how well nutrients are absorbed. Jobs, responsibilities at home, bills, and so many other stressors can promote the release of harmful stress hormones that pull blood away from the digestive system and into your “fight or flight” muscles.
Reduce stress and improve digestion at meal time by putting away electronics and distractions, chewing food completely, eating more slowly, and taking time to relax.
Juicing is the fastest way of boosting the nutrients you get from vegetables. Why juice them instead of cooking or just eating them raw?
For one, it is easier and much more convenient. It is faster to drink your greens rather than to sit down and chew leaf after leaf of spinach.
Secondly, leafy greens contain a fiber called cellulose that humans lack the enzymes to digest properly.
Juicing greens reduces the need for the body to work harder in breaking down fiber and nutrients are absorbed straight into the body.
Additionally, when you get juice from leafy greens, you have a concentration of nutrition that includes healthy antioxidants and vitamins ready to drink.
Looking to boost your nutrient intake? Use these 5 tips to get the most out of eating leafy green vegetables.