Hippocrates famously said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” That sentiment is especially true today. We live in a world with an interesting combination of food choices. On one hand, we have access to food that is some of the unhealthiest, most processed garbage in the history of humanity, and on the other, we have access to a more diverse range of food choices, extracts and supplements than ever before. The key to good health and long life really is through nutrition as long as you understand how to take full advantage of what’s out there.
Raw or Cooked Right
Raw diets are all the rage right now because there is this idea that cooking destroys nutrients. Unfortunately, that is an oversimplification. It is true that some foods are best eaten raw, but many other foods are best eaten cooked because heat activates the nutrients in them and makes those nutrients more available to the body. Let’s face it, cooking also tends to make healthy food more appetizing. Actually eating the food is priority number one, so prepare it in a way you’ll enjoy it while keeping the following in mind.
How you cook food, especially vegetables, is extremely important for nutrient retention. The classic boil-in-water method is actually the number one worst way to prepare a vegetable. You should never, ever boil any vegetable in water. The healthiest option is to steam, and frying or baking are also okay methods. Just be sure that vegetables are lightly cooked, however you prepare them. They should still have good color and some crunch left in most cases.
Make the Right Pairings
Vitamins and minerals commonly work in conjunction with one another. A certain vitamin or mineral will help with the absorption of another, so when they are consumed together you end up getting more of each.
You can find this with a quick Google search, but it doesn’t have to become overly tedious or scientific. People figured out these natural nutrient pairings a long time ago, probably without realizing all the science. Follow traditional cooking recipes and menus from already healthy diets around the world. Mediterranean and Indian dishes usually have these natural pairings, using spices and healthy fats to aid with absorption.
It’s always best to keep things simple, natural and balanced. It is possible to get overly focused on a narrow selection of “healthy” foods and ignore the fact that you need a wide variety of nutrients to be healthy. Carrots and broccoli are two very healthy foods, but if you only eat lots of carrots and broccoli, you will end up very unhealthy. For the overly health conscious, this often means limiting fat too much. You need healthy fats like those from olive oil or most fish, and certain vitamins will only be absorbed if they are carried by fat.
Supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry today. There are such a wide variety of supplements available it can be overwhelming. A dietary supplement available from companies like Vasayo and similar retailers can provide a benefit as long as you make your choice strategically. Certain nutrients benefit far more from supplementation than others because of how your body processes and stores those nutrients. For example, supplementing with a lot of water-soluble vitamins is a waste because your body will only use a small portion. Instead, focus on key micro nutrients, fat-soluble vitamins or nutrients your specific diet may be lacking, like B12 for vegetarians and vegans.
You may be surprised to hear a health blog toting frozen food. After all, fresh and local is all the rage and healthier, right? Well, maybe, but actually often not. The problem with fresh fruits and vegetables is that they degrade in nutritional value very rapidly. Unless you’re buying from the local farmer’s market, your “fresh” fruits and vegetables in the grocery store aren’t actually that fresh at all. They probably were picked too early, so they wouldn’t spoil in transit, and then they took a long trip across the country or even across the continent before reaching the shelf.
They’ve been treated, sprayed or otherwise prepped to they would survive the trip and still appear fresh. On the other hand, freezing keeps fruits and vegetables fresh naturally. They can be picked at the peak of freshness and don’t need any extra treatment or hassle because they won’t spoil in transit, and they won’t degrade anywhere near as fast. Also, you can keep frozen fruit and vegetables in your house longer without worrying about spoilage or nutrient loss. Freezing does not damage any of the nutrients. The notable exception to this is if you’re buying locally grown produce.
Unless you’re buying locally grown food, frozen is the best choice. It’s important to point out, however, that this rule applies only to whole or chopped fruits and vegetables, not to overly processed frozen meals or heavily prepared and processed frozen vegetable dishes. There are some real bombers lurking the frozen aisle, so you have to know what you’re picking.
Armed with these health facts, you can choose and prepare food that is nutrient-rich and will set you on the path to a long and healthy life with minimal doctor visits. Just remember what Hippocrates said, and help your body take care of itself.