How to get the most nutrition out of your veggies

May 18, 2012 at 7:00 a.m. ET

If you're working on getting enough vegetables into your diet each day, that's fantastic. But you may also want to make sure you're getting as much nutrition out of them as possible too.

Colorful veggies

Many of us don't eat enough vegetables every day. So first and foremost, focus on including a variety of vegetables into your meals. Canada's Food Guide recommends women from the ages of 19 to 50 years old eat seven or eight servings of fruit and vegetables daily. It also recommends eating the actual fruits and veggies more often than having them in juice form.

But to take it further and make sure the vegetables you eat are giving you the most nutrition possible, follow these three steps.

Prepare your veggies simply

Eating vegetables is healthy, but not as much if they're smothered in fatty sauces, loaded with salt or deep-fried. Eating them baked, steamed, roasted or stir-fried are healthier ways of enjoying them. And while boiling is a simple preparation, many nutrients (such as vitamin C and folate) get boiled out of the vegetables, so opt for a different cooking method to make sure you don't zap them of nutrients.

Leave the peels on

If you automatically reach for the peeler when you prep your vegetables, you could be removing and discarding most of the nutrients and minerals, as many are found in the skins. Take potaoes, for example. Insoluble fibre, potassium and B vitamins are found within the skins, so if you peel them before roasting them, you're significantly decreasing their nutrional value. Many vegetables (and fruits) can be eaten with their peels. If it's a matter of taste, work your way slowly toward leaving the peels on (perhaps prepare half the veggies peeled and leave half unpeeled) until your taste buds become used to the new flavour and texture.

Eat tomatoes cooked and with some fat

Raw tomatoes offer health benefits, of course, but cooked tomatoes have higher nutritional value. Cooking boosts the amount of lycopene in tomatoes by as much as 35 per cent. This happens because the cooking breaks down the cell walls of the fruit, so your body is better able to absorb the nutrients. Also, pairing tomatoes with a bit of fat has benefits. How? Your intestine better absorbs the lycopene when it's accompanied with some fat, so add a drizzle of olive oil to your cooked tomatoes.

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