Next time you heat up some spaghetti sauce, consider doing it in a cast-iron pan. The acid from the tomatoes will leach iron from the pan and fortify the sauce. Even eggs can benefit from being scrambled in iron, which increases their iron content fivefold.
To avoid pitting or damaging an iron pan, remove acidic foods (tomatoes, fruits, and anything containing vinegar) immediately after cooking. And before you toss your Teflon, one caveat: Iron leached from pans can impart a metallic taste to food, so try cooking something simple first (like a fried egg) to ensure that your taste buds approve.
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Avoid Refrigerating Watermelon
A giant watermelon isn’t just hogging refrigerator space; it’s also losing lycopene while sitting in the cold. According to recent research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a watermelon’s lycopene levels climb by about 20 percent and its beta-carotene levels can double when the melon is left at room temperature.
"An uncut watermelon will last about four weeks on a counter," says Penelope M. Perkins-Veazie, a plant physiologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service, in Lane, Oklahoma. (Most are already a week off the vine when they arrive at the market.) If you don’t relish the idea of lukewarm melon on a summer day, “it’s fine to throw it in the refrigerator a few hours or even a day before you eat it,” says Perkins-Veazie. Once cut, though, it should be refrigerated so it doesn’t become a breeding ground for yeast and bacteria.
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Cook Colorful Vegetables
Nothing sounds healthier than the crunch of a fresh carrot. But you'll get more from these vegetables if you eat them cooked, preferably with a little oil, according to Toni Steer, Ph.D., R.D., a nutritionist at the Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research Centre, in Cambridgeshire, England. Cooking breaks down the carrot's tough cell walls, freeing up beta-carotene and making it more easily absorbed by the body, says Steer. Juicing, which also disrupts the cell membrane, is another good way to access this nutrient.
Tomatoes get a boost from cooking, too. "Lycopene-absorption levels increase the longer you cook tomatoes and the more you break down their cell walls," says Schwartz, "which is where the lycopene is trapped."