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Wellness Wednesday: How To Get the Most Nutrition Out of Your Veggies

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Everyone knows vegetables are one of the healthiest food groups. With nutrients such as potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid and fiber in addition to a low fat content, vegetables are the main component of a healthy diet. But what everyone may not know, is that the way that you consume your vegetables and where you get them from contributes to how nutritious they actually are. Follow these tips to ensure you getting the most out of your veggies. 

Chop It Up 
How big or small you slice and dice your veggies may seem irrelevant but, as NPR's Morning Edition explained, some vegetables benefits from being grated or chopped into smaller sizes. Red, orange and yellow vegetables (as well as spinach) have nutrients called carotenoids which aid cell health. By mincing, chopping and cutting these vegetables into the smallest particles possible, the body will be able to absorb the most carotenoids. 

Throw a few carrots, some spinach or other carotenoid-rich veggies in your fitness blender and grind it up into the tiniest pieces to get the best absorption next time you make a smoothie.  

Steam Your Veggies 
Although raw vegetables are still packed with nutrients, cooking some vegetables slightly can lead to more vitamins and minerals becoming available, because the cooking process breaks down the cell walls. Boiling vegetables can cause vitamins to leach into the cooking water, but steaming or even microwaving vegetables with water can help add moisture to the food without causing the loss of nutrients. 

Add Some Oil 
Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant similar to carotene, which helps cell health and may reduce the risk of cancer. When you eat tomatoes you get some lycopene, but your absorption is much higher when the antioxidant is consumed with some oil or fat because lycopene is oil soluable. So don't skimp on the olive oil in your tomato sauce or the homemade dressing on your veggie-filled salad, it can help your body take in more nutrients from your tomatoes. 

Don't Discount Frozen 
Consumer Reports explained that fresh fruit at a supermarket or grocery store may not be particularly fresh. From the moment it's picked, food sits in processing facilities, planes, trucks and stores for days losing nutrients. However, frozen food is flash frozen when picked and can last months without significant nutrition loss. Frozen vegetables, such as spinach, also work great in smoothies as a cold addition to the other ingredients. Fresh, local produce eaten quickly is optimal, but frozen vegetables are a viable option as well. 

Although some vegetables benefit from certain preparations, the most important thing to remember is to consume a variety of vegetables to take advantage of all the health benefits.