How can you prepare food in a healthier way?

There are simple ways to make the food you prepare much healthier and even leaner.

Bukharian chicken and herbed rice (photo credit: LEANNE SHOR)
Bukharian chicken and herbed rice
(photo credit: LEANNE SHOR)

You try to make the healthiest nutritional choices. You choose veggies at the shop, then at home, you prepare a healthy salad or stew for the whole family. 

There are simple ways, however, to make the food you prepare much healthier and even leaner. How can you make a healthy pasta/sauce combo? Why is it important to refrigerate the rice? Why add lemon to food? How do you cut up lettuce?

Here are the tips you need most before you start cooking.

Heat your tomatoes

Many people are very afraid of pasta, but if you eat it with the right ingredients such as a healthy tomato sauce it can be delicious and nutritious

A vendor arranges tomatoes on his stand at the Mahne Yehuda market in Jerusalem February 9, 2011 (credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)A vendor arranges tomatoes on his stand at the Mahne Yehuda market in Jerusalem February 9, 2011 (credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)

The coloring substances in tomato and other vegetables, phytochemicals, are used as protective agents against diseases, they aren't destroyed by cooking or heating, and sometimes they become more active as a result of cooking like tomato sauce that contains lycopene that protects against prostate cancer.

Eat your pasta al dente

Eating pasta al dente (to the tooth) helps one achieve better control over blood sugar levels.  

Pasta is a carb, but it has a relatively low glycemic index which helps the body regulate blood sugar. When pasta, which is usually made of durum flour, is cooked to al dente, its glycemic index is even lower, it's digested in the body longer and it's tastier.

Cool your rice

Rice is a basic, common food which is prominent in Asian cuisine and is eaten worldwide. It is, however, caloric. Researchers from Sri Lanka now claim to have found a way to lower caloric value by 60% by cooking in coconut oil and eating it cold.

The method is based on making the starch in rice harder to digest so the body invests more energy in breaking it down. Starchy foods such as rice are a source of energy because when we eat them, our body breaks them down into simple sugars. This is why the glycemic index, an index that rates foods rich in carbohydrates according to the speed with which they raise blood sugar, is high in rice.

Researchers say to cook rice for 40 minutes with a teaspoon of coconut oil, then refrigerate it for 12 hours. The coconut oil adds additional protection, as the fat pushes itself into the rice and is another barrier to rapid digestion.

Conquer the cabbage

In the pickling process, we actually convert the good bacteria on the skin of the vegetables into lactic acid, which gives them the sour taste and protects them from bad bacteria for a long time. 

The process encourages the growth of probiotic bacteria that produces energy and multiply. Probiotic bacteria are considered good bacteria that are healthy for the digestive system and intestinal flora, as they strengthen the immune system and improve food absorption. Also, they give the body constant protection against pathogens.

Fermented vegetables contain digestive enzymes that help the digestion process and you can use almost all types of vegetables, from cucumber to radish and cauliflower – emphasis on cabbage because it has healing abilities for the digestive system and intestinal tissues and it helps in the creation of vitamin B12 in the intestine.

Eat your vegetables with some fat

Eating vegetables with added oil (not much) helps the body absorb vitamins A,D,E,K as well as various phytochemicals from the veggies.  Be sure to choose a low-fat dressing to keep calories low. Carrots with tahini, for example, is a good choice.

Cut your own lettuce the day before

If you use lettuce for your salad, it is better to tear it by hand yourself, and do it the day before.This gives an explosion of phytonutrients (plant nutrients) that aid in digestion and are created as the plant's defense against various pests when it's torn. 

Tearing the lettuce increases the amount of antioxidants compared to eating a whole leaf. A recently published study found that broken leaves in salad kit bags, for example, increase the risk of salmonella by thousands. Also, broken leaves increase the strength of bacteria and the chances that it will succeed in causing infections.

Leave the carrot whole while cooking

A study by the University of Newcastle tested and found that when we boil whole carrots for soup or stew, they retain 25% more of falcarinol which prevents and significantly reduces the risk of colon cancer, compared to cut carrots.

Add lemon to your food

Adding foods containing vitamin C such as citrus fruits, lemon juice, red pepper and tomatoes increases the absorption of iron from plant and animal sources

Iron has many roles in the body's systems. It's an important component of the protein and enzymes that participate in the energy production process in the body, so a lack of it will lead to fatigue, weakness and exhaustion. Iron strengthens the immune system, so a lower concentration of it in our body may expose us to infections and diseases. 

Also, black pepper improves digestion and paperin, the active substance found in it, is even capable of breaking down fat cells, but it improves the absorption of food components by the walls of the intestines.

Sproute your legumes, it's healthy

Sprouting has many health benefits such as reducing bloating that sometimes happens after eating legumes, a faster digestion process and an increase in the amount and availability of vitamins, minerals and many nutrients including B vitamins, iron and more.

A study that examined the effect of sprouting on food components and was published in the magazine Plant Foods for Nutrition found that in soy proteins that were sprouted for 24 to 72 hours, the amount of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins in the body, increased eight times over that of soy proteins that weren't sprouted.  Make sure that the sprouting process is hygenic and that the beans are well cooked.