Enhancing Bioavailability: ABSORB MORE OF THE GOOD STUFF
Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn.
Bioavailability-Test Your ChefMD IQ
1. Is cooking vegetables better nutritionally than eating them raw?
2. Does thawing frozen vegetables before cooking them help to maintain their nutritional value?
3. Do you generally eat your fruits with the skin off?
4. Do you generally eat your vegetables with the skin on?
5. Is it true that eating a few almonds before eating a sausage will help block the negative effects of its saturated fat?
6. Do you know how to sauté, steam, simmer, marinate, dry rub, roast, and grill?
7. Do you use herbs and spices liberally?
8. Do you usually use a low-fat or nonfat salad dressing on your salad?
9. Is milk chocolate more nutritious than dark chocolate?
10. Can cocoa lower blood pressure?
Scoring: Give yourself 1 point for each correct answer.
1. Yes: Cooking usually unlocks vitamins from the ber in vegetables, and less cooking is usually better. When you boil your veggies many of the nutrients end up in the water. You keep the nutrients when you steam.
2. No: Studies show that frozen vegetables maintain a much higher level of nutrition when cooked frozen.
3. No: Bet you knew this. Much of the nutritional value of fruit is in the skin.
4. Yes: Bet you knew this, too. Like fruit, much of the nutritional value in vegetables is in the skin.
5. Yes: Eating a few nuts before eating meat will help block the negative effects of the meat's saturated fat.
6. Yes: These are healthful ways of preparing foods.
7. Yes: Herbs and spices contain an incredible array of antioxidants and, of course, great avor.
8. No: There's a surprise. Use full-fat dressings or add a bit of healthy fat (avocado, walnuts, almonds, olives) to your salad.
9. No: Dark chocolate good, milk chocolate bad (more on that later).
10. Yes: Just 30 calories worth of dark chocolate daily can help.
Total score (0-10):
8-10 points: Your Inner ChefMD is smart and cookin'.
4-7 points: Your Inner ChefMD is almost ready for prime time. Read this chapter to hone your skills.
0-3 points: Your Inner ChefMD needs to go to culinary medical school. Read this chapter immediately!
Food is like sex. When done well, it engages all ve senses; it taps into our most primal needs and urges and it's among the greatest pleasures you can experience. And like sex, eating good food is a celebration, and an af rmation of life.
Would you watch TV while having sex? If it was great sex, probably not. So why would you grab a burger while running through an airport or eat a hot dog while sitting in front of the tube?
It's so much more satisfying to enjoy and savor the experience of eating good, fresh, nourishing food than to eat mindlessly. And like sex, eating a meal is usually better if you're doing it with someone you love.
You know you should eat more fruits and vegetables-you've been hearing it since you were a small child and didn't want to eat your peas. Now that you're a grown up, your brussels sprouts probably still get left behind on the plate, and the last piece of fruit you had was the maraschino cherry out of a mai tai. You know that if you ate more fruits and vegetables, you'd be healthier. But what you may not know is that how you look and feel is also affected by your food's bioavailability. Say what?
What Is Bioavailability?
Bioavailability is a word borrowed from pharmacology, the study of drugs and their effects on the body. In pharmacology, bioavailability means the amount of a particular drug the body actually absorbs into the bloodstream, not just the amount you take. It's how much medicine is available for your body to use.
With respect to food, bioavailability means body ready: the nutrients absorbed and available for your body to use. Naturally, you want to maximize the body readiness of healthy nutrients for your system. Let me give you some examples.
Say it's a beautiful summer day and you stop by your local farmers' market to pick up a watermelon. You get it home and you kind of wish the watermelon were cold, but you don't want to wait for it to cool down in the refrigerator. Take heart. Watermelon that's been stored at room temperature has up to 40 percent more lycopene and up to 139 percent more beta-carotene than watermelon out of the cooler or your fridge. Store and eat your watermelon at room temperature to maximize those powerful antioxidants. And here's a little bonus. The lycopene and beta-carotene in harvested watermelon actually increases over time-for up to two weeks. So let that freshly picked melon mellow to maximize its nutrients.
Sure, you already know that boiling vegetables reduces their nutritional value. But if you're going to boil your vegetables, and I'd prefer you steam them, do it in as little water and for as short a time as possible. Reducing the amount of water and the cooking time reduces nutrient loss and maximizes bioavailability.
I'm sure you've noticed how the color of the water turns slightly yellow when you're boiling a yellow vegetable and tints green when you boil a green vegetable, right? That's the avonoids leaching out of your meal. Flavonoids are brilliant antioxidant compounds in vegetables that give them their fabulous colors and activate your DNA repair system, helping to protect you from cancer. Save that water and use it to make soup or cook pasta.
Here's an example of how to maximize the body-readiness of vitamin C in your fruit. Buy whole fruit and cut it up yourself. Although it's easiest to grab the packages of presliced fruits your grocer has conveniently prepared, studies show that preslicing fruit can reduce its vitamin C content over time. Cantaloupe, kiwi, and pineapple seem particularly prone to vitamin C loss when precut. Precut fruit costs you more and you get less nutrition. I'd call that a double whammy. So, know your fruit: for cantaloupe, kiwi, and pineapple, go whole and slice your own.
The concept of body-readiness is vital to the ChefMD plan, because it is the missing link to being simultaneously overweight and undernourished, as so many people now are.
Why? Because our food is increasingly less nutritious than it used to be-and not just processed fast foods. Researchers recently looked at data from the USDA from 1950 and 1999 on the nutrient content of forty-three different crops of fruits and vegetables. They found that six out of thirteen nutrients had declined in these crops over the fty-year period: protein was down by 6 percent, calcium by 16 percent, phosphorus by 9 percent, iron by 15 percent, riboavin by 38 percent, and vitamin C by about 20 percent. Furthermore, they found a strong correlation between high yield in wheat crops and a loss of nutrients in the wheat, such as zinc and phosphate. This was also true of high-yield commercial broccoli and its level of calcium.
And it's not just vegetables. A British study showed that chicken in 2004 contained a third less protein than chicken in 1940. The twenty- rst-century chicken also had more than twice as much fat and a third more calories.
Wow. We've become much better at producing larger and larger quantities of food, but bite for bite its nutritional value is smaller and smaller.
We don't know the precise reason for this decline in nutrition over the past decades. Greater crop yields are seen by some as the culprit. Whatever the reason, I want to help you to absorb more nutrients from the food you eat-because the fact of the matter is that there are fewer nutrients in it.
How much you eat; what other foods you eat at the same time; and how you cook, store, and choose food all affect how much you absorb from what you eat and how well your body can use it.
Some people point out that your genes dictate how you absorb nutrients, and how unfair that is. Some people eat a healthy diet and die at fty; others eat that same diet and thrive past one hundred. That's the diet-gene paradox: our genes determine how we absorb what's in food that's good for us, and not so good for us. But the amazing thing is that food can tell your genes what to do, and with better bioavailability, you can get even more from what you eat-no matter what your genes.
Sadly, there are also barricades to bioavailability. Say, for example, you're trying to get more leafy greens in your diet, a wonderful thing to do. You've hit on a crunchy green, completely virtuous salad, with beautiful red peppers, green peppers, a grape cherry tomato or two, with a low-cal squeeze of lemon or store-bought fat-free dressing. You're sitting pretty, having maybe 125 calories in a bowl as big as your head and headed to weight-loss heaven. You may feel virtuous when you sit at your desk at lunchtime with that lunch, and maybe also feel a little jealous when you see your co- worker's Philly cheese steak.
What you might not know is that the fat-free dressing is actually keeping you from absorbing the carotenoids in that green salad that can help stave off cancer. Locked up inside that salad is nearly every antioxidant you've ever heard of. You're getting less than you could-unless you eat that salad with avocado, or with walnuts or roasted walnut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil, or nearly any other good-for-you fat.
Why? Because the oil makes the lutein in the green peppers, the capsanthin in the red peppers, the lycopene in the tomato, even the limonene in the lemon more body ready for you. Each of them is optimally absorbed with a bit of fat. Even reduced-fat dressing won't let you get as many of these valuable nutrients as you could. You've been running from fat-who knew you might actually need it?
Later in the book, I'll teach you to make a simple and delicious dressing for my Parmigiano Caesar Salad with Shrimp (page 121): the olive and walnut oils give you healthy fat, ghting fatty buildup in the arteries, offer great avor, and save you from the sugars that may be in that bottled fat-free dressing. And there is an added bene t to this particular salad dressing: its garlic contains allicin, a substance that can ght hardening of the arteries. The garlic clove has to be exposed to air to make the allicin active, and you'll do that when you crush it for the dressing. Why not take the simple steps to unlock all the goodness that salad has to offer?
I guarantee that an hour after your salad, you'll feel ne, while Mr. Philly Cheese Steak may be passed out on his desk. All of those saturated fats from his sandwich are now lying like melted cheese in his arteries, constricting them not allowing them to dilate, which in turn doesn't let his muscles get enough oxygen, making him fatigued. So now he's out cold like a sh on ice at the Pike Place Market.
The foods we eat affect our bodies for good or for bad. With the ChefMD approach, you give up none of the richness, satisfaction, and avor to get more from what you eat. You absorb more of the cancer- ghting, stroke-slaying, heart-disease-stopping antioxidants that only work when they come from food, not pills. That's what this book is all about: the celebration of healthful recipes that extract all the goodness from every delicious morsel and every juicy bite. But before we go further, let me offer a very short overview of what you need to know about nutrition.
The Basics of Nutrition
Most of us were too busy passing notes or throwing spitballs to pay attention when they taught us nutrition in grade school, so you may not remember that there are only six types of nutrients: protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water.
However, there are also literally thousands of compounds in food that are not technically nutrients. We talk about them as nutrients, but they are really other kinds of bene cial compounds.
They're as important as the original six, because they regulate many of the basic metabolic and physiologic processes that govern how your body works, how your brain works, how your muscles work, and more. And in food, these compounds are metabolized at many different levels in the body, and present a powerful package of nutrition-more than any one nutrient by itself.
Your nutrients have to be in a form that can be recognized by the body to be absorbed. For example, if you swallow a piece of metal containing iron because you're only eight and your brother dared you to do it, the body will not recognize it as such and will not absorb the iron. But if you eat a piece of liver, the body will recognize the iron it contains and absorb it.
We need certain nutrients to avoid developing serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and that need is constant. But the ability of our bodies' systems to get essential nutrients to where they are needed uctuates. Like nutrition itself, bioavailability is complicated. But we can make it work for us with what we know now. And every day, scientists and physicians are discovering new and exciting ways to get the most out of what we eat.
Now that you understand the basic concepts of nutrition and bioavailability, I'll explain the three factors you can use to maximize your food's bioavailability:
1. Freshness and quality
2. Food combinations
3. How food is processed and cooked
Once you understand these factors, you will be able to unlock the secrets to getting more from what you eat.
FACTOR 1: FRESHNESS AND QUALITY
The rst step in absorbing more of the good stuff from your food is to buy the best-quality food you can afford. When it comes to freshness and quality the rst rule of thumb is to buy foods that look most similar to their original form. You don't see square bread- crumb-covered halibut swimming around in the ocean, right? I guess then we'd call them stick sh. And what about chicken ngers? Since when do chickens have ngers? In the ChefMD plan, fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, legumes, certain sh, tea, wine, dark chocolate, and nuts have the real star power, with lean meats playing a supporting role.
Fruits and Vegetables
I'm crazy about fruits and vegetables-as a chef, a doctor, and as someone who loves to eat good food. When you look at the vibrant and beautiful palette found in most fruits and vegetables don't you think Mother Nature is trying to tell us something? There's a reason it's not called mad broccoli disease. I know that when you start to learn the secret bene ts of produce and how easy they are to choose and prepare, you'll come to love them more.
When shopping for fruits and vegetables, use at least three senses: sight, touch, and smell.
From the Hardcover edition.