How to get more nutrition out of your food

I have been plant-based since 2018 and have definitely learned a lot of nutrition tips and tricks. I have tried new and exotic fruits and vegetables from the local supermarket that I did not know we could eat in Europe. 

I learned how to properly cook vegetables so that they taste very good and which foods provide certain nutrients. 

I put together a list of useful tips I learned over these years and bet you are not doing some of them ;)

Let me know by social media or email if you have any other tips I should include in this list!


Cut cruciferous vegetables and wait before cooking them to increase sulforaphane content

Sulforaphane is converted from another compound named glucoraphanin by myrosinase enzymes. These enzymes belong to the defense mechanism of plants.

Myrosinase enzymes are only released and activated upon damage to the plant. Cutting or chewing cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts) activates these enzymes which then make sulforaphane.1

Another strategy is to add half a teaspoon of mustard seeds to cruciferous vegetables. Mustard seeds contain the myrosinase enzyme themselves! 


Nutrition tip 1


Combine raw and cooked foods in your meals

Raw vegetables keep the digestive enzymes intact because these are heat sensitive. 

Moreover, certain water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, B, and C, are reduced by 50% when vegetables are boiled because they either leach into the water or are degraded by high heat. Minerals and polyphenols are also decreased by boiling.2, 3,

On the contrary, cooking vegetables breaks down fibers and plant cell walls, making plant foods easier for the body to digest.

Cooking plant foods increases the ability of antioxidants like beta-carotene (carrots, sweet potato), lycopene (tomatoes), and lutein (broccoli, dark leafy green), and reduces the anti-nutrient effect.


When in doubt, microwave or steam vegetables

If you wonder which cooking method is better, studies show that steaming or microwaving, not boiling, are the best methods when it comes to retaining nutrients.5, 6, 7


Nutrition tip 2


Grind chia and flax seeds to increase omega-3 absorption

It is quite widespread that whole flax seeds tend to pass undigested through the body, making it impossible to extract the nutrients within.

The best solution is to grind flax seeds, add them into a jar and store them in the fridge (since warmer temperatures also affect the stability of these oils). You can also freeze them for longer storage.


Eat a brazil nut daily to meet your selenium requirements

Brazil nuts are very high in selenium, a mineral with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Selenium can be hard to get in a plant-based diet, so using this trick is an easy way to forget about this mineral.


Give mushrooms some sunlight to increase vitamin D levels by 10 times

Mushrooms contain ergosterol, a vitamin D2 precursor, which when exposed to UV radiation, is converted into Vitamin D2. By placing mushrooms in the sunlight for 20 mins, they increase Vitamin D levels to 10 ug per 100 grams (10 times more!), which is about the daily requirement in many countries.8


Nutrition tip 3


Add garlic and onion to your meals to boost nutrition

These two plant foods boost the amount of iron and zinc that we absorb from foods like beans and grains.

Just a few slices of onion or 1-2 cloves of garlic per meal are enough!9


Add pepper when cooking with turmeric

When making a curry or a latte with turmeric, don’t forget to add pepper to increase curcumin by up to 2,000%.

Turmeric is a great anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compound.10


Add fat to your meals to help the absorption of certain vitamins 

Fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K are more easily absorbed when combined with at least 6g of fat.

Think of 1 tbsp of hemp seeds, oil, 2 tsp of tahini, a quarter of an avocado, or half block of tofu.11


Nutrition tip 4


Avoid tea, coffee, or cocoa during iron-rich meals

These beverages inhibit iron absorption. Better to take them 1 h before your meal or 2-3 hours after the iron-rich meal.

Decaffeinated coffee also counts! Caffeine doesn’t seem to be the inhibitory substance, but the polyphenols found in coffee, cocoa, and teas.12, 13, 14