There’s more to eating healthy than meets the eye. While choosing nutritious foods like vegetables, fruits, and dark chocolate is a great start, it’s only half the battle. You also have to eat these good-for-you foods the right way. If you are slicing your strawberries, avoiding ripe fruit, or overcooking your broccoli, you aren’t eating your healthy foods the correct way, meaning you’re missing out on vital nutrients. Here are six nutritious foods and the wrong and right ways to eat them.
1. Dark chocolate
Chocolate and other candies are often labeled as unhealthy, but as many of us know, that is not the case for dark chocolate. Oprah explains it is packed with antioxidants called flavanols and epicatechins that reduce your blood pressure, decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke, and keep your blood flowing freely. Additionally, the tasty treat can decrease your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and its antioxidants can help protect your skin from the sun’s UV damage.
But if you are eating too much chocolate or it doesn’t have a high enough cacao percentage, you may not be receiving many of these health benefits. Doctors Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz state in a Sun Sentinel article that you shouldn’t be eating an entire bar of chocolate — aim for one serving a day, which should be about the size of a Hershey’s Kiss.
This ensures you get all of dark chocolate’s nutritional benefits without consuming too many calories. Additionally, make sure you’re eating plain dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa and avoid fillings like peanut butter, as they often contain unhealthy oils.
Filled with wonderful nutrients such as vitamin A and beta carotene, Care2 explains that carrots can improve your vision, help prevent cancer and heart disease, slow down aging, promote healthier skin, and prevent infections. Unfortunately, if you are eating your carrots raw, you may be missing out on many of these benefits.
A Columbia University study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that eating cooked carrots, rather than raw, enables your body to better absorb carotenoids, which boost your immune system and heart health while decreasing your risk of disease, according to Redbook. Fortunately, it isn’t hard to work cooked carrots into your daily diet. Serve them as a tasty supper side or include them in casseroles, soups, and other cooked dinner dishes.
Broccoli is a superfood that is loaded with potassium, folate, fiber, and vitamins A, C, and B6, Men’s Fitness explains. The Huffington Post adds that broccoli can also help prevent certain types of cancers, such as breast and skin cancer. However, broccoli doesn’t have nearly as many benefits if you don’t eat it the right way. According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, steaming is the only cooking method that completely preserves, and may even increase, broccoli’s cancer-fighting abilities.
In addition, NPR writes that if you use other cooking methods, such as boiling or frying, or overcook your broccoli, you’ll destroy the enzyme that turns chemicals called glucosinolates into cancer-fighting agents. So if you are steaming your broccoli, make sure you only do it for two to three minutes; oversteaming can also destroy broccoli’s cancer-fighting abilities.
Tomatoes contain all four major carotenoids — alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene — potassium, and vitamins E and C. WebMD notes that tomatoes contain particularly high levels of lycopene, which have the highest antioxidant activity of all the carotenoids. But if you’re eating your tomatoes raw, you’re not consuming as much lycopene as you could be.
The Institute For Vibrant Living explains that cooking tomatoes drastically increases their lycopene levels, which can help reduce the risk of stroke, certain cancers like prostate and pancreatic cancer, and heart disease. To prepare your tomatoes the correct way, the Institute for Vibrant Living recommends cooking them in olive oil; lycopene is also fat-soluble, meaning you need fat in your diet for your body to properly absorb the carotenoid.
5. Apples and pears
Apples and pears contain dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making these fruits great options to work into your daily diet. Just make sure you don’t eat them before they’re ripe. This means that if you eat your apples before they’re brown or your pears while they’re still hard, you’re eating them incorrectly, according to Redbook.
Instead of eating your fruit immediately, try waiting a few more days and give your apples and pears a chance to ripen. Science Daily reports that a study called “Ripe Fruit Contains Highly Active Antioxidants” found that when these fruits ripen, it allows chlorophyll to break down, thus producing the same decomposition products as those found in brightly colored leaves. As a result of the decomposition process, there are more highly active antioxidants produced in ripe apples and pears, Science Daily explains.
Strawberries are a great source of immunity-boosting vitamin C. “One serving of strawberries contains 51.5 mg of vitamin C — about half of your daily requirement. Double a serving to one cup and get 100 percent,” Madeleine Edwards, a registered dietitian, told Best Health.
However, if you cut your strawberries prior to eating them, you’re not receiving as much vitamin C as you could be. Men’s Health writes that whole strawberries contain 8% to 12% more vitamin C than strawberry slices that have been cut, because the vitamin begins to break down when it’s exposed to light and oxygen. To ensure you’re getting as much vitamin C as you possibly can, Men’s Health suggests storing your whole strawberries in the fridge; cool temperatures also help strawberries retain their vitamin C.