The way you prepare your food can be just as important as what food you eat. Is there any point in eating broccoli, for example, if you cook the life out of its natural carcinogen killers? On the other hand, some foods, such as tomatoes, may offer more benefits when they're cooked.
Fortunately, nutrition experts know a few tricks to help you get the most nutrients out of your food.
The process: Scrambling your eggs activates avidin, a protein that binds to biotin and renders it useless, said registered dietitian Robert Wildman. “Biotin is an important B vitamin that helps with energy support and thick, lustrous hair,” he said.
The fix: Try poaching or boiling. Omelet lovers should know it’s better to beat your eggs than to forgo them.
The process: Penn State University researchers have shown that microwave heating or roasting garlic can diminish or destroy its anti-cancer activity. If garlic is processed or dried, meanwhile, it loses its ability to form hydrogen sulfide, a substance that relaxes blood vessels and may be good for the heart, according a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
The fix: Eating garlic raw is best, but if you do need to cook your garlic, chop or crush it beforehand and allow it to “stand for at least 10 minutes, said the Penn State researchers.
The process: Frying, grilling or barbecuing meats at high temperatures can form carcinogens known as HCAs or heterocyclic amines. Some research has shown HCA’s can cause genetic mutations in our cells.
The fix: Avoid flare-ups. Also, microwave your meat for a few minutes and pour off the juices before cooking it on the grill, said Kristin Anderson, associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Baked or stewed meat has fewer carcinogens. Though it’s important to cook meat thoroughly to kill bacteria, turning down the heat or cutting off burned portions when it’s finished can considerably reduce HCA’s.
The process: While raw tomatoes are certainly nutritious, it’s difficult for the body to absorb their lycopene, a powerful antioxidant linked to prostate health.
The fix: Cooking tomatoes or breaking up and mashing them and combining them with some type of fat or oil may enhance absorption, said registered dietitian Susan Mitchell. “Because of their cooked composition, tomato sauce and similar products appear to enhance absorption,” said Mitchell. Still, “raw tomatoes have many other wonderful attributes than lycopene such as vitamin C, beta and alpha carotene, potassium, folate as well as super low in sodium and 1 gram of fiber per medium plum tomato.”