Sadly, summer is on its way out, and as much as we’re looking forward to rocking our fall looks and digging into some pumpkin-spice-inspired recipes, colder temps can bring unwanted colds. But with a strong immune system, you might have a better chance to stay healthy throughout the season. And a strong immune system is best built by adding lots of good-for-you vitamins and nutrients to your diet. So we caught up with Marci Clow, MS, RDN at Rainbow Light, to figure out the best way to get the most of antioxidant-rich foods and stay healthy all fall long.
1. Get the most vitamin C. According to Marci, vitamin C activity is destroyed with high cooking temperatures (think grilling hot and fast or quick frying in a pan). She says, “The best strategy for getting the most vitamin C is to eat fresh plant foods that are rich in this antioxidant, such as strawberries, red peppers, kiwi or broccoli raw.”
2. Use the right temp. “For vegetables which contain beta-carotene – colorful veggies like carrots & spinach, use moderate temperatures and short cooking times, as levels may increase with moderate heat,” advises Marci.
3. Know which cooking method to use. Marci notes that, for the most part, frying, pressure-cooking and boiling veggies typically leads to more antioxidant destruction when compared to griddling, microwaving or roasting. “As an example, artichokes retain antioxidants with all cooking methods, whereas zucchini or cauliflower are more sensitive to boiling,” she says.
4. Know which veggies can pull double duty. “Some cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are antioxidant stars whether raw or cooked,” says Marci. She adds, “Raw broccoli is loaded with vitamin C and sulforaphane (which can help prevent certain types of cancers), and when cooked, another beneficial compound called indole is formed.”
5. Shop at the right places. This might seem obvious, but the closer you can get to the original food source, the better. “When possible, hit the local farmers’ market or try to find local produce. The fresher the better, as some vitamins are lost during transportation and storage,” adds Marci.
6. Don’t waste nutrients. “Water-soluble vitamins like C — in bell peppers and kale — and the B’s are best when cooked with a minimal amount of water or none at all, during roasting. If you boil or steam, save the nutrient-rich cooking liquid and add to sauce or soup,” suggests Marci.
7. Don’t be afraid to add a little fat. The good fat that is. “Fat-soluble vitamin (A, D, E, K) absorption may be increased by eating your veggies with a little oil. Try roasting vine-ripened tomatoes with olive oil, drizzling spinach salad with a vinaigrette or lightly stir-frying greens,” suggests Marci.
8. Just eat ’em. Seems obvious, but adding more fruits and veggies to your diet, no matter how you like ’em, is better than not eating them at all. “The best tip is to eat your vegetables and fruits no matter how they’re prepared, and try to balance raw choices with variations in cooking methods to provide the broadest spectrum of nutritional benefits,” advises Marci.
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(Photos via Getty)