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6 surprising ways to get the most nutrients from your food

Learn how to unlock all the nutrients in these healthy fruits and veggies with these quick and easy cooking tips and tricks.
/ Source: TODAY

Nutritionist and dietitian Wendy Bazilian shares her secrets to unlocking the full nutritional potential of carrots, apples, garlic and more. She also shows us how to make healthy kale and avocado salad and Mediterranean-flavored potato salad.

You've heard it before, eat more fruits and vegetables. Sure, but do they always have to be served raw and fresh? The way we store, prep, cook and combine them can boost those nutrients even further to get the most out of the gifts of mother nature.

RELATED: How to pair your foods to make them even more nutritious

1. Pair avocado and kale (or other dark leafy greens)

Combining these foods increases the absorption of vitamin K, and boosts phytochemicals like beta-carotene by 400% or more! Research has also shown that avocados paired with tomatoes — think guacamole and salsa— increase the lycopene's nutrient absorption by more than 200%.

Kale and Avocado Salad

2. Use herbs and spices when cooking protein

In a meal that contains fat, herb and spice blends can reduce the levels of fats in the blood (triglycerides) by up to 30% after a meal. And, when they are included in marinades with meats, chicken, burgers, etc. (basically any animal protein), they reduce the production of harmful compounds is reduced by 44-70%.

RELATED: How to keep avocado fresh and green

3. Trim carrots and roast them whole

Cooking carrots boosts the levels of important carotenoid plant nutrients—including beta-carotene, which plays a role in healthy vision, skin and the immune system. Research has shown they will retain the carotenoids and other nutrients better than cutting first and then cooking them. (They'll retain their flavor better, too!)

4. Cook apples in a cast iron pan

Doing this adds iron to your food that can be easily absorbed by your body. Cooking them in cast iron increases the iron content in apples 21 times! (Also, cooking tomato sauce in cast iron increases iron content 9 times.)

RELATED: Easy, healthy one-pan dinners for busy weeknights: Chicken and roasted veggies

5. Let garlic rest after chopping

Resting garlic after chopping, mincing or crushing it (before cooking) allows the production of very important compounds related to heart health and cancer risk reduction.

6. Allow potatoes to cool

This increases the resistant starch in them, which acts more like a fiber than starch. Research has shown it can decrease calorie and carbohydrate absorption from the potato while bumping up fat burning by more than 20 percent! Resistant starch also helps increase hormones that give us the signal to stop eating when we're full.

Mediterranean Potato Salad

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