Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Food is not just energy (calories) but also information. It contains many diverse components that play important roles in all our bodily functions. Food is made of:
Macro-Nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and lipids, building blocks for our body and sources of energy.
Micro-Nutrients: Vitamins (A, D, B12...) and Minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium...) which are essentials for many processes in the body, the health of our organs and tissues but also for energy production.
Phytonutrients: they are chemical compounds found in plants (fruits, vegetables, grains...) which have a positive and protective impact on our body.
+ fibres and water
Today, most people eat meals which are calorie-dense but nutrient-poor. To improve the nutrient content of your diet, follow these 5 simple rules:
1. Aim for 8 portions of veg and fruits/day
Seems difficult? Here are a few tips:
Get some veggies in at breakfast: green smoothies, veggies added to an omelette or grated carrot or courgette in porridge.
Always add chopped vegetables and fresh herbs to pasta sauces and curries.
Add peppers, grated beetroot or carrots to your salads.
Snack on carrots and celery sticks + hummus or fruits + nuts
2. Choose the right cooking methods
Steaming: the best method to retain water-soluble vitamins such as the B vitamins and vitamin C.
Stir-fry: makes the fat-soluble vitamin A and some antioxidants more bioavailable to your body.
Roasting: makes food more tasty but it can lower B-vitamins if it’s done at high temperature (+140oC)
X Boiling reduces levels of the vitamins Bs and C which are heat sensitive and leak into the water. If you have to boil, use as little water as possible.
X Frying degrades the healthy omega-3 oils found in fish by up to 70–85%.
3. Add herbs and spices to each meal
Herbs and spices contain vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients which can benefit your health:
Cumin seeds and dried thyme are high in iron
Cinnamon is rich in chromium
Cayenne and fresh parsley are rich in vitamin C
Saffron, parsley and cayenne have high levels of beta-carotene
Dill and parsley are rich in calcium
Turmeric contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory compound
Oregano is high in antioxidants
4. Drink your nutrients
Smoothies and juices are an easy way to get more nutrients into your body. However they should be low in sugar and have a good ratio of vegetables and fruits.
Here’s how to create a green smoothie:
One handful of leafy greens: spinach, kale, watercress
Add one thickener: banana, avocado, mango
Add a liquid: coconut water, almond milk or just water
Add some protein sources: hemp seeds, peanuts, almond butter, chia seeds
5. Eat a rainbow
The colours of fruits and vegetables are caused by plant compounds called phytonutrients. For example, the phytonutrient ‘Lycopene’ is responsible for the red colour of tomatoes and has been shown to have protective properties against prostate cancers. Different phytonutrients will have different benefits on our health so aim to have at least 3 different colours in each of your meals, breakfast included!
Sources: The Institute of Functional Medicine
The Encyclopaedia of Healing Foods