How to select and prepare foods for weight loss.
Article by Dave Eberhart
The proper food selection and preparation to obtain weight loss is extremely important. Obviously, we want to select the freshest, most nutrient rich fruits and vegetables possible, which means they are vibrant in color, firm and fresh. No limp cucumbers or zucchini in my shopping cart if you please. The best time to find the freshest fruits and vegetables is obviously when they’re in season. This is a great time to raid the farmers market to find fresh, locally grown produce and potentially save money.
Unfortunately not everyone lives near a farmers market and there is also the simple fact that we have to eat year-round. Enter the local grocer.
It doesn’t matter whether you are shopping at a local discount grocer or in a store like “whole foods” or “sprouts”, there are a few basic decisions and guidelines that need to be made.
Selecting the Proper Foods
First, when I am considering a purchase, I look to see its point of origin. I want to buy fresh foods that haven’t spent a lot of time in shipping containers or sitting in a warehouse in southern Mexico or East China. These foods are normally plucked from their roots a considerable time before they are truly ripe. In some cases there is not a lot of choice, but I try.
Second, comes the decision to buy organic or non-organic. In some fruits and vegetables it is imperative that you purchase organically grown. In others, I can save money and go for the nonorganic. To guide me in this decision-making process there is the site online called the Environmental Working Group (http://www.ewg.org/). They publish a quick little guide called the dirty dozen and the clean 15. You can download this guide as a PDF or they have several apps for your mobile device. On a personal level, I would recommend that you visit the site and read some of the important information that they have. A lot of it is a real eye-opener on just what we are eating today.
Storing Your Purchases Properly
Now that we’ve made our purchase and we’ve got them home, we need to store them until they’re consumed. If vegetables are not properly stored they can lose up to 30% of their nutrient level. Temperature, humidity and the amount of light exposure all contribute to the spoilage of fruits and vegetables. Most fruits and vegetables do best properly stored in the refrigerator. However, as everything in life, there are exceptions. These exceptions include onions, garlic, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, winter squash and sweet potatoes. Tomatoes should be stored on the counter-stem side down. This slows the escaping gases. Avocados can be refrigerated after they have been ripened. If refrigerated before ripening they will rot.
Do not wash vegetables before refrigeration because exposure to water will encourage them to spoil. Vegetables should be handled with extreme care to prevent bruising. Any kind of cell damage can degrade the vitamin content, especially vitamin C.
Modern refrigerators, for the most part, are all frost free. This means that the refrigerator is constantly removing moisture from the air, and unsealed items in the refrigerator. Even when vegetables are stored in the crisper drawer they lose moisture. To help prolong the freshness of the vegetables that I bring home, I store them in Ziploc bags which keeps the refrigerator from drawing the moisture out of the produce. By doing this I can prolong the freshness and texture of my produce a few more days.
Another important procedure in preparation of your food is proper cleaning. All vegetables, including organically grown vegetables, should be clean before cooking or eating raw by rinsing under cold water. This rinsing under cold water helps them to retain their nutritional value better than other cleaning methods such as soaking for long periods of time. This soaking process can result in loss of nutrients, especially water-soluble vitamins. There is one exception to this rinsing step and that is mushrooms. If you try to rinse mushrooms it just won’t work. I clean my mushrooms by wiping them with a slightly damp towel to prevent them from becoming soggy.
In today’s economy it should be obvious to most that cooking at home can be a great way to help you save money as well as boost your health. Most of us lead busy lives and we just don’t think we have the time to prepare a meal at home. So what are our choices? We get restaurants and fast foods as well as pre-prepared meals in supermarkets. These choices are often nutritionally poor and not a bargain when you consider the lack of nutritional value you get for your money. Most restaurants tend to serve inflated portions and their menus, as are processed and fast foods, tend to be high in calories fat sugar and sodium and low in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. As a result you tend to eat more in order to feel full. There can be no doubt that if you regularly make these foods the primary way to satisfy your hunger, you’ll be buying larger size clothing soon.
It has been my experience that people often have trouble trying to increase their vegetable intake because they just don’t know how to make them taste good. It is not the vegetables themselves that don’t taste good, but rather it’s the result of how we cook them. Most people enjoy a tasty salad or a coleslaw. The reason for this is that they are crisp and fresh and provide a crunch that most of us really desire.
Did you know that with improper cooking methods your carefully selected veggies can lose 50 to 80% of their nutrients? And just as importantly, they lose flavor. When you cook at home you know the quality of ingredients that went into your food, the calorie content and that it was healthfully prepared. No ingredients that you can’t pronounce are in your meal, unless you put it there.
Okay, how do we create this crisp, crunchy textured and appealing plate of healthy vegetables at home? Well, we start by cutting or slicing our veggies into small pieces which helps them cook more quickly and evenly which is very important when you want to keep cooking times to a minimum. When working with cruciferous vegetables, such as onions, leeks and garlic, you need to let them set for several minutes (between 5 and 10 minutes) in order to bring out their full nutritional elements.
In garlic for example a sulfur-based compound called alliin an enzyme called alliinase are separated in the garlic’s cell structure when it is whole. Cutting garlic ruptures the cells and releases these elements allowing them to come in contact and form a powerful new compound called alliicin which not only adds to the number of garlic’s health promoting benefits but it also is the culprit behind their pungent aroma and gives garlic its “bite”. Let garlic rest for a period of 5 to 10 minutes, after cutting, before eating or cooking to let its magic work.
Research and experience have shown that when it comes to garlic, the more finely it is chopped, the more alliicin is produced. Pressing garlic or mincing them into smooth paste will give you the strongest flavor and the greatest amount of alliicin. The stronger the smell of flavor of garlic, the more health promoting nutrients it contains.
Additional research also shows that cutting cruciferous vegetables such as, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, etc., into small pieces breaks down cell walls and enhances the activation of an enzyme called myrosinase that slowly convert some of the plant nutrients into their active forms, which is been shown to contain many health promoting properties. This means, that to get the enhanced benefits of these vegetables, you also should let them set for a period of 5 to 10 minutes, after cutting, before eating or cooking.
Cooking at low or medium heat for short periods of time (up to 15 minutes) should not destroy the active phytonutrients since once they are formed, they are fairly stable.
Besides preserving nutrients during cooking it’s very important to cook foods in a method that does not create harmful compounds. When you cook with oil, the oil can oxidize their fats and cause lipid pre-oxidation products that can cause problems in the body and increase the risk of arteriosclerosis. Replace your usual method of cooking with oil by cooking with broth or water. This method is just like creating a stir-fry, only cooking at lower temperatures. It is a little like steaming because there is enough moisture to soften the cellulose and hemicellulose, which aids digestibility. Sautéing in this method requires just a small amount of liquid to make the vegetables moist and tender. Sautéing with this method is especially good for cauliflower and asparagus because steaming and boiling them will dilute their flavor.
1. Heat 3 to 5 tablespoons of broth or water in a stainless steel or nonstick skillet.
2. When broth begins to steam, add vegetables.
3. Stir gently to evenly spread the vegetables.
4. Cover if necessary and sauté for the recommended period of time.
Besides reducing your exposure to oxidized oils, you will consume less calories by sautéing. Typically you may use a few tablespoons of oil when you sauté vegetables. All you’re getting from the oil is the texture and often times you don’t really get much flavor area but 2 tablespoons of oil can add more than 200 calories to your meal. Simply by using broth instead of oil to sauté you can save yourself most of the calories.
Food Selection and Preparation for Weight Loss Conclusion
One last thought about cooking with oil. Extra-virgin olive oil is a key component of diets such as the Mediterranean diet. It is also one of the foods that I recommend. But what I do not recommend with extra-virgin olive oil is cooking with it. The reason is because its Mono unsaturated fats and polyphenol antioxidants can become damaged. Instead I recommend using it in salads and dressings and drizzled on vegetables, chickens and fish. When cooking I use Virgin Coconut oil or Almond oil as these are healthy oils with a higher smoke point.