Cherry Tomatoes - filled with cancer fighting nutrients!

Roma Tomatoes - filled with powerful cancer fighting nutrients!Credit: Burnt CarrotsCredit: Burnt Carrots

Nutrition has a growing list of buzzwords.   Cereal is fortified with iron and folic acid, bread now contain omega-3’s, and good luck finding a juice on the market that doesn’t boast of added antioxidants.  These fortified foods claim you can forgo the real deal, broccoli, green tea, or kale, but are these claims true?  Is it possible to skip the fish and get the same health benefits from eating a slice of bread?

I want to start of by saying that fortified foods have a purpose.  Many people around the world and even in the United States are deficient in one or more nutrients.  And these foods are literally saving their lives. 

But what about the average person, who take a multi-vitamin and eats relatively healthy, do they need to seek out fortified foods?

Lets take a closer look by examining broccoli, a dreaded vegetable most kids (and some adults like my dad) won’t touch, even with a 10-foot pole.  Despite its bad rap, broccoli is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet and should have a routine spot on the dinner table. 

Its magical properties can help with a vitamin D deficiency, improve digestion, and even fight dreaded cancer.  In vitamins alone, it has five: vitamin A, C, K, B6, and E.  And it doesn’t stop there.  Other nutrients include folic acid, fiber, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium.  The kicker of them all, it’s got glucosinolates, phytochemicals, and lutein.  All of which have been proven to reduce your chance of developing cancer. 

So, you may ask, why don’t we simply fortify every food we eat with broccoli by cloning and shrinking it down into an unidentifiable powder? The problem is we can’t, nature is too mysterious

First off, cooking (or shrinking) broccoli or any vegetable for that matter dramatically changes the health benefits.  Take olive oil for example: attempting to be healthier, you may season chicken breasts with olive oil, (instead of vegetable oil) salt and pepper.  Put the chicken on a tray and cook in the oven at 350°F for 35 minutes.  Unfortunately, by cooking the olive oil above 300°F you altered the oil’s chemistry and lost many valuable nutrients. 

In addition, to the hazards of cooking, drying, or attempting to shrink the broccoli in some form or another, by simply extracting the best five or so nutrients from the broccoli and adding to bread, we are missing an important aspect.  The aspect of how the whole picture works together.   Ask any food scientist and you will discover that the world of extracting nutrients is not perfect.  Our digestive system is very complicated and intricate.  We do not understand how nutrients work together to benefit us.  For example, tomatoes have been served with olive oil for centuries.  But why?  Tomatoes are naturally rich in Lycopene and when paired with oil, this powerful cancer-fighting nutrient increases.  This is nature at its finest. 

The point of this is to recognize that there is a lot we do not understand about how our bodies absorb nutrients and there are a lot of nutrients we miss out on if we simply grab the fortified oatmeal in the morning instead of making an omelet with tomatoes and asparagus.  In the end, your body will thank you!