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Get the most from your fruits and veggies: Cooking and Nutrition Tips

BUYING FRUITS AND VEGETABLES is a healthy move. The way you store, cook, and serve them can make them more or less healthy. Follow these suggestions and you'll maximize the nutrients in your produce.

Store Well

Protect fresh peas and beans from nutrient loss by leaving them in their pods until you're ready to eat them.

Leafy vegetables like cabbage, kale, and salad greens need cold temperatures and high humidity to retain their nutrients. Keep them in a closed bag in your refrigerator crisper drawer.

Certain produce, like tomatoes and tropical fruit, taste best at room temperature, but keep them out of direct sunlight because it will hasten their deterioration.

Cook Right

Heat and water can both leach nutrients from foods, so cook foods as quickly as possible in as little water as possible. The best cooking methods are microwaving, pressure-cooking, steaming, and stir-frying.

If you boil vegetables (like potatoes), minimize nutrient loss by bringing the water to a full boil before adding them. Keep a lid on the pot to speed up cooking time.

Prep like a Pro

Rinse vegetables briefly under running water, or dunk and lift them from a bowl of water. Never soak them; water-soluble vitamins will leach into the soaking water.

Leave peels on whenever possible. Many nutrients, like fiber, calcium, and potassium, are concentrated in or just under the skin. For example, a medium-size apple with its skin has 54 percent more fiber than one without.

Don't chop fruits and vegetables ahead of time or cut them into small pieces. Both these practices maximize exposure to air, which destroys certain vitamins.

Eat Smart

Certain nutrients work better in combination. For example, sulforaphane and selenium when eaten together provide up to 13 times more anti-cancer power than either one of them offers alone. Serve vegetables high in sulforaphane, like broccoli and cabbage, with selenium-rich foods like nuts and mushrooms.

Vitamin C helps you absorb plant-derived iron, and acid increases the bioavailability of calcium. Serve spinach with citrus fruits or juices (which are both acidic and vitamin-C-rich) and you'll reap the nutritional rewards.

Aim to eat fruits and veggies in both raw and cooked forms. Raw tomatoes contain more vitamin C, but you get more lycopene from cooked ones. Raw onions have more heart-healthy sulfur, but cooking frees up their quercetin.

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