I find it fascinating to see the depth of information researchers can learn about the food we eat.
Beyond the nutritional value of meals, scientists are working to uncover how certain foods should be eaten, what they should be combined with and how they are best absorbed. I've waded through the research to uncover these eight amazing tweaks to make good-for-you foods even better.
Making curry? Add black pepper
Turmeric, the spice that gives curry powder its distinctive yellow colour, is being studied for its ability to halt the production of cancer cells. Turmeric contains the potent antioxidant curcumin, the active ingredient with anti-cancer potential. Curcumin is not well absorbed by the body, but a sprinkle of black pepper can enhance curcumin absorption by over 2000 per cent. Just a pinch of pepper is all you need to see this benefit.
Pairfish with wine
It's no coincidence that the much-lauded Mediterranean diet includes wine and fish for cardiovascular health. It turns out that people who enjoy a glass of red or white wine when they eat fish have higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fats in their blood. High blood concentration of omega-3 fat is protective against coronary heart disease, stroke and sudden cardiac death. Not a wine drinker? Try using it in a marinade or sauce.
Enjoying a sandwich? Choose sprouted bread
Grains like wheat and rye can be sprouted before they are milled and baked into bread. That means the grain seed is allowed to germinate or "sprout". It produces grains with more protein, fibre, antioxidants, B-vitamins, vitamin C and iron. It also helps rid grains of certain "anti-nutrients" like phytic acid and tannins, which can hinder mineral absorption. Sprouted-grain breads have a lower glycemic index, making them a better choice for balancing blood sugar levels.
Making a salad? Toss in hard-boiled eggs
Salad vegetables such as carrots, lettuce and sweet peppers boast huge antioxidant potential, but it needs to be unlocked. Adding cooked eggs to salad can help you absorb up to eight times more antioxidants like beta-carotene, which help reduce inflammation that leads to diabetes, arthritis and heart disease. Egg whites won't work, since it's the fat in the yolk that matters. Other fat-containing foods that can boost antioxidants in salads are avocado, almonds, pumpkin seeds or an oil-based salad dressing.
Don't peel apples
The same goes for cucumbers, potatoes, peaches and kiwi (yes, you can totally eat the kiwi peel). Most of the antioxidants, vitamins and fibre in vegetables and fruit are found in and adjacent to the peel, so tossing it away is a huge waste of nutrients. A major component of the apple peel is quercetin, an antioxidant associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Chop garlic and wait
Garlic's cell structure contains a compound called alliin and an enzyme called alliinase. Separately, they have little potential. But once you mince garlic, these two components come into contact and create allicin, a powerful antioxidant that can kill cancer cells and prevent new ones from forming. After you mince or chop garlic, wait 10 minutes to allow allicin to form. The finer you chop your garlic, the more allicin will be produced. Caution: this also enhances the potent flavour.
Preparing tomato sauce? Use olive oil
Raw foodists take note - some foods provide more nutritional value when they are cooked. Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene which is better absorbed by the body when tomatoes are heated and fat is added. Tomato sauce is a smart combination of cooked tomatoes with olive oil. The lycopene in tomatoes has been associated with lowering cholesterol levels and may have anti-inflammatory effects, meaning it must be absorbed to be functional. Without heat and oil, lycopene is not well absorbed by the body.
Drinking green tea? Add a splash of citrus
A study out of Purdue University showed that our ability to digest catechins, the antioxidants found in green tea, is enhanced by citrus. You can increase digestion of catechins from 20 per cent up to 98 per cent.