Let's face it, there is a lot of nutrition information out there. And though the internet can be a blessing, it can also be a never-ending black hole of information that can be hard to comprehend and sort out.
Nutrition is an important topic because it not only influences our physical health but also our mental and emotional health and overall wellbeing.
Today we wanted to share some of our top nutrition facts and hacks from our in house nutritionist with you so you can get the most out of your meals!
You can improve the digestibility of beans by soaking them
Have you heard of anti-nutrients? These compounds, which include lectins and phytic acid, are found in foods such as legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, and beans.
They are essentially the defense mechanisms of plants to help ensure their own survival.
Anti-nutrients reduce the body's ability to absorb nutrients from food and can promote digestive symptoms such as bloating and gas. They can also damage the intestinal lining potentially promoting leaky gut. This can be especially problematic when eating these foods in large quantities.
Lectins found in especially high amounts in legumes, beans, and grains can reduce the absorption of minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc in the gut.
Phytic acid, found in whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are similar to lectins because they can also decrease mineral absorption during a meal and even inhibit certain digestive enzymes needed to break down our food. This is a problem because if not careful, nutrient deficiencies can occur as well as compromised digestive function.
The good news is that you can decrease the anti-nutrient content of foods by soaking your grains, beans, and legumes before cooking! They will typically need to soak for about 12 hours followed by high heat cooking.
Always cook your beans and legumes well to reduce digestive upset and any toxic effects.
Anti-nutrients aren't all bad
Yes, we know we just bad-mouthed anti-nutrients but they can also have benefits! Hear us out.
Anti-nutrients such as lectins and phytic acid can actually help to improve the glycemic response from a meal and could even potentially reduce the risk of certain cancers, kidney stones, and cardiovascular disease (1)(2).
We still recommend following the above recommendations to minimize anti-nutrient levels from foods when cooking however as you can see anti-nutrients can also provide some benefits.
The foolproof way to pick the perfect avocado
We all know that sinking feeling when you slice open an avocado only to find you got there too late. So today we want to give you our avocado hack so you never have to experience this again!
Next time you are picking an avocado, simply peel off the stem and observe its color. If its green it's good to go, if it's brown it will be too ripe and most likely contain brown spots inside. You're welcome, and happy avocado hunting!
Leafy greens are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet
What makes leafy greens so special? They are packed with nutrients! In fact, they may be the most nutritious foods from the plant kingdom.
High in nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and folate, greens also pack a ton of antioxidants that can help to protect our cells from damage.
Leafy greens are naturally low in calories and high in fiber, typically lacking in the standard North American diet, and which can help to promote healthy digestive function and reduce the risk of chronic disease (3).
Leafy greens are also low glycemic which makes them ideal for healthy blood sugar management.
Examples include cabbage, chard, arugula, kale, spinach, lettuce, watercress, and collard greens.
Now we get that leafy greens aren't the most delightful tasting foods on the planet, but there are many ways to incorporate more greens into your diet.
We love a good green smoothie or fresh summer salad to feed our body with greens in the most delicious way!
Cooking certain vegetables can actually make them more nutritious
Tomatoes are well known for their lycopene content, a carotenoid that gives the fruit its bright red color. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to reduce the risk of cancers, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and asthma (4).
A study found that simmering tomatoes for about 30 minutes boosted lycopene content by 35% (5).
Beta carotene, another carotenoid that is found in colorful plants such as carrots, is converted into vitamin A in the body.
It is also an antioxidant associated with healthy skin, reduced cancer risk and cognitive decline, protection against free radicals, boosting immune function, and preventing macular degeneration (6).
Significantly more beta-carotene has been shown to be absorbed from cooked carrots compared to raw carrots because the heat helps to break down the outer layer of the vegetable, releasing nutrients (7).
Lycopene also enhances the body's utilization of beta carotene, so eat your carrots with tomatoes! Eating fats with beta carotene-rich foods will also enhance the absorption of this antioxidant.
Your cooking methods make a difference
It's not just what you eat, but how you cook your food! High heat cooking, including grilling, frying, or searing can actually increase inflammation by promoting the formation of chemicals known as AGEs.
These compounds, known as advanced glycation end products, are shown to contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body which can lead to the development of chronic disease over time as well as accelerated aging (8).
This process is significantly increased with animal protein foods that are cooked at high temperatures, such as BBQ meats.
We recommend avoiding high heat cooking as much as possible and opting for alternative cooking methods such as steaming, poaching, and boiling instead.
But if you do end up at a summer BBQ, we recommend including lots of phytonutrients on your plate by loading up on fruits and vegetables which are rich in antioxidants to help combat free radicals.
Spices and herbs are better alternatives to sugary sauces because they can help reduce the amount of AGEs formed while cooking.
Some great options include rosemary, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, and ginger.
Supplementing with vitamin C can also be helpful due to its antioxidant properties.
Folic acid isn't the same as folate
You have probably been told folic acid is an important part of your prenatal or multi-vitamin, but did you know this is not the natural form of the vitamin?
Folic acid is not the same as folate, the naturally occurring form of the B9 vitamin, but instead a synthetic vitamin that has been shown to be unmetabolized in the blood. Why is this a problem?
First of all, many of us, due to MTHFR genetic variants cannot actually utilize folic acid because it first needs to be converted into methyltetrahydrofolate before it is usable by the body. But you don't even need to have a genetic issue to have a problem with folic acid. Conversion can be inhibited by many other factors as well such as lack of enzymes and cofactors and the presence of toxins and heavy metals.
Folic acid has been shown to also increase homocysteine, an inflammatory marker, and block our folate receptors which means natural folate can’t get into the cell to do its job (9).
When supplementing always look for the active form l-methyl-folate instead of folic acid on the bottle and choose a trusted brand such as Thorne and Natural Factors.
We also recommend avoiding packaged foods which are often fortified with synthetic folic acid and choosing whole foods instead.
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.