Archive for the tag - nutrients

Is Fresh Produce Healthier?

frozen-mixed-vegetablesFresh sounds better than frozen, but is it necessarily true when it comes to fruits and vegetables?

Two separate UK studies were commissioned and carried out by Leatherhead Food Research and the University of Chester. In both studies, researchers examined key nutrient levels three days after storage. In other words, if you pick up fresh and frozen broccoli on Monday, how do the two compare on Thursday? Will the fresh or frozen broccoli be healthier?

After 40 different tests, researchers concluded that nutrient levels were higher in frozen fruits and vegetables 66% of the time.

According to researchers, the nutrient levels in fresh produce decreased during storage – especially in the softer fruits. This decrease wasn’t seen in corresponding frozen fruits and vegetables, disproving the myth that fresh food products are always nutritionally superior. At the very least, frozen produce is nutritionally comparable to fresh produce.

And it makes sense. Frozen produce is picked at the peak of freshness and then flash frozen. This process locks in and preserves the high nutrient levels until consumption.

Moreover, frozen fruits and vegetables also tend to be much cheaper. So really, it’s a win-win situation.

Is Boiling Vegetables Bad?

steamed-vegetablesThough the government recommends 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day, most of us get less than half that. So any effort to eat more vegetables is a good thing.

But not all cooking methods are created equal. Certainly, deep frying isn’t advisable. Neither is sauteing vegetables in copious amounts of butter. But how does boiling stack up?

Though an obvious improvement over grease or butter, boiling vegetables isn’t always the best route. If you place veggies that are high in water-soluble vitamins (like vitamin B, vitamin C or folate) into hot water, the vitamins will leach out. If you’re making a soup, then it’s no big deal; you’ll be consuming the vitamin-rich broth. But if you’re draining the water and then eating the vegetables, you’re losing much of the benefit.

In fact, a Danish study looked a the effect of boiling on broccoli. Because it’s high in water-soluble vitamin C, researchers discovered that boiled broccoli retains only 45% – 64% of it’s initial vitamin C content. Though the numbers will vary from vegetable to vegetable, it’s clear that boiling can have a significant negative impact on the foods we eat.

So what’s the smarter alternative?

The same study found that steamed broccoli, on the other hand, kept 83% – 100% of it’s vitamin C content. Rather than leaching out into the water, steamed vegetables retain the majority of their vitamin content. And if you don’t have a steamer, I once learned a simple trick. Fill a pot with an inch of water, and then place two inches worth of old forks at the bottom. Place the veggies atop the forks and let the water boil! Alternatively, you can always steam veggies in the microwave.

The bottom line: Almost all of us need to eat more vegetables. And steamed veggies are the best option for maximized health benefits.

Are Food Cravings Psychological?

In the last few weeks, we’ve talked a lot about food cravings – and, in particular, how to eliminate them.

But it hasn’t stopped folks from asking me if our food cravings are the result of nutritional deficiencies. If we’re not getting enough of a particular nutrient, it’s a popular belief that our bodies will crave those foods rich in that nutrient. In other words, if you’re not getting enough Vitamin A in your diet, then the belief is that you might crave carrots.

But that’s exactly why this myth is untrue. When was the last time you craved carrots – or any other vegetable or leafy green? Instead, we crave foods rich in saturated fat, salt or sugar like pizza, milk chocolate, ice cream or cookies. And we certainly don’t need any more of those foods in our diets.

Rather than being associated with nutritional cues, research suggest that cravings are related to a complex mix of social, environmental, physiological and cultural factors. For example, there was a recently-cited study in the Wall Street Journal which found that sushi cravings are more popular in Japan than chocolate cravings.

It’s also been found that food cravings activate the same reward circuits in brains as cravings for drugs and alcohol – and that brain regions associated with memory, emotion and stress all light up during intense cravings. Rather than craving chocolate because of a magnesium deficiency, it’s more likely that your hankering is the result of a screaming boss.

Though it’s a commonly held belief that our cravings are related to nutritional deficiencies, research strongly suggests otherwise. Instead, it seems that cravings are a psychological coping mechanism born from a rich brew of complex factors.

If you need help overcoming cravings, check out my 10 tips for eliminating the munchies.