18 Secrets to Make Your Food Healthier Without Even Trying

Updated: May 03, 2021

Experts show how to effortlessly unlock the powers in common foods to help fight disease, lose weight, and more.

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Refrigerate cooked potatoes

Cook potatoes or other root vegetables, then chill them for about 24 hours before you eat them. The cooling process turns high-glycemic vegetables into low- or moderate-glycemic vegetables, and that transformation helps keep your blood sugar levels more stable. (Beware of these sneaky things that raise your blood sugar.) Even if you reheat the veggies, this trick works. As a bonus, cooking with extra-virgin olive oil helps keep the veggies from slowing down your metabolism. Turn every meal into a healthy one by making these healthy cooking recipes a regular part of your diet.

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Thaw your frozen berries in the microwave

You’ll preserve twice as many antioxidants and more vitamin C if you do compared to defrosting on the counter or in the fridge. Frozen fruit and veggies have been shown to be better for you than fresh out-of-season produce, since they are picked and frozen when their nutrition is at their peak. Also: Berries are your fiber friends: Ounce per ounce, there is more fiber in raspberries than bran cereals!


Prepare your salad the day before you eat it

Jo Robinson, author of the book Eating on The Wild Sidewhich reviewed thousands of health studies, explains that tearing romaine and iceberg lettuce the day before will quadruple its antioxidant content. On the other hand, these salad mistakes will actually make your meal less healthy. Shred clean greens with your fingers, put in a plastic bag with a paper towel to absorb extra moisture, and keep in the fridge till the next day. Then toss with toppings.


Pick the yellowest ears of corn

You’ll reap 35 times more beta-carotene than white corn! Beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, contains powerful antioxidant functions that can boost your immune system, improve eye health, and lower your risk of heart disease. However, taking beta-carotene as a supplement—as opposed to getting it through vegetables—could increase your risk of lung cancer, which is why it’s one of the 8 vitamins that are a total waste of money.


Cook carrots whole

Carrots are more nutritious cooked than raw. And when cooked whole, they have 25 percent more falcarinol, a cancer-fighting compound, than carrots that have been chopped beforehand. Chomping on carrots as a snack can also prevent you from overeating, thanks to their fiber content. Check out more fruits and veggies that will always fill you up.


Dice garlic, then let it rest

This will maximize this aromatic plant’s powerful medicinal qualities (cancer-fighting compounds, antioxidants, vitamin C). Chop, mash, or press the cloves and then let them sit on the cutting board for 10 minutes before cooking.

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Poke holes in your broccoli’s bag

There’s more than one way to make this cancer-fighting superfood even healthier. Storing broccoli wrapped in a plastic bag with tiny pricks in it will give you up to 125 percent more antioxidants than if you had stored the broccoli loosely wrapped or in a tightly sealed bag. Use a salad fork to get holes all over.


Thoroughly chew your grapefruit

You’ll absorb more of the lycopene in pink grapefruit when you make sure to break all the cell walls. But what’s great about this fruit is that you don’t even need to eat it for it to be healthy; simply smelling grapefruit can help you lose weight.


Throw a chile into a corn dish

This simple remedy for indigestion has been widely used for generations in Mexican culture, explains Chef Luis Aguilar Puente, since chiles help you digest corn. As an added bonus, one raw green chile has double the amount of vitamin C found in an orange. Check out more foods you’d never guess have more vitamin C than oranges.


Buy canned tomatoes over fresh

All tomatoes have cancer-fighting properties, but the most nutritious tomatoes in the supermarket aren’t in the produce aisle! Processed tomatoes are the richest known source of lycopene, because of their concentrated state. When buying fresh, look for smaller size and deeper color; you’ll get more nutrients. If you have a choice, deep red tomatoes have more antioxidants than yellow, gold, or green tomatoes. These are the 12 cancer-fighting foods you should be eating every day.


Bake with avocados instead of butter

Over 75 percent of the fat in the versatile “alligator pear” is unsaturated (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, the good kinds) and they’ll bring nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to your baked goods. Not ripe? No problem! Use this trick to ripen your avocados in 10 minutes.


Choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate

Numerous studies have shown that dark chocolate (above 70 percent cacao) can lower bad cholesterol, decrease blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and help you lose weight. Bonus perk: It doubles as an aphrodisiac.


Make leafy greens more potent with a squeeze of lemon

We all need the health benefits from leafy greens, but it’s especially important for vegetarians to access the nutrients they’re missing from a meatless diet, including iron. Frances Diaz, RD of FITzee Foods shares,”Vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and kale contain lots of iron, but it’s in an indigestible form. So adding vitamin C to these foods will help your body break it down in to a form that is more easily absorbed by our bodies.” Try adding lemon, lime, or orange.


Store asparagus like roses

Store asparagus upright in a small vase or bowl in your fridge to keep its metabolic activity going, and you’ll prevent spoilage while keeping the veggies fresher and more antioxidant-rich. Follow these tips to keep your fruits and veggies fresh longer.


Boil and drain your Swiss chard, beet tops, and spinach before eating

Doing so frees up acids that are linked to certain types of kidney stones formation, according to nutritionist Nicolette M. Pace, MS, RD. These are the warning signs of kidney stones you need to look out for.


Rub the skin of kumquats before you pop them in your mouth

It’s worth finding kumquats to try this out; limonene has been shown in studies to have anti-cancer effects. Aim for about five to get a good dose of vitamin C, carotenes, and lutein; and eat them whole (peel and all) to reap their full nutritional benefits.


Let your lentils sprout

When legumes like beans and lentils sprout, the grain’s starchiness lowers, and the protein content rises. In fact, lentils contain all essential amino acids, making them one of the few complete protein foods that aren’t meat. This process not only makes them more nutritious, but also appears to make them more easily digested.


Make beets bite size before cooking

Cutting beets into chunks or cooking the smallest ones you can find will aid in keeping their nutrient levels high, since you can reduce cook time (the rich betalin color is highly susceptible to nutrient losses with extended exposure to heat). Those nutrients can reduce your risk of dementia and heart disease. Try for 15 minutes when steaming, and 45 max when roasting.

Sources: FruitGuys.com nutrition almanac; Rebecca F. Barnhurst, RD, for One Degree OrganicsEating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson (June 2013); Hass Avocado Board; Shimon Pinhas, holistic health counselor and owner of Raw Chocolate Love; Chef Luis Aguilar Puente of Tacombi in NYC; Nicolette M. Pace MS,RD; Drew Canole, Founder of FitLife.TV; Sunkist Grapefruits; NPR.org; Frances Diaz, RD, for FITzee Foods.
Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest