Why Dressing Up Veggies Can Be Healthy

Why Kale and Carrots Should Be Properly Dressed

The right fats increase your carotenoid absorption by 800 percent.

You know you need to eat your carrots—not to mention your leafy greens like kale and spinach. Even if you don’t like them, you know you should eat them because these veggies are laden with carotenoids: powerful antioxidants that prevent premature aging caused by free radicals. For example, frequently exposing your eyes to blue light—which occurs naturally but is also emitted by energy-saving bulbs and can be absorbed by reading online—catalyzes free radical production in the sensitive parts of your eye, causing damage and possibly leading to macular degeneration and other eye diseases. The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin absorb blue light in sensitive parts of your inner eye and prevent damage. Other carotenoids, like neoxanthin and violaxanthin in spinach, are widely anticarcinogenic, and lycopene in tomatoes has been shown to prevent prostate cancer. But you knew that.

Now here’s something you may not know—and may be preventing you from getting the full benefit of the veggies you eat: Carotenoids dissolve in fat rather than water. That means your gastrointestinal tract absorbs them far better when they’re eaten with fat. According to Oregon State researchers, eating at least 3 to 5 grams of fat with your vegetables ensures efficient carotenoid absorption.

Now research has discovered that eggs may be the best way to extract carotenoids from veggies. Purdue University’s Nutrition Science Professor Wayne Campbell found that eating three whole cooked eggs with a serving of greens increases carotenoid absorption by 300 to 800 percent. That’s up to eight salads in one.

That’s also a lot of eggs. Although eggs are a good source of protein, unsaturated fats, and vitamin B, one egg contains 186 milligrams of cholesterol, and the recommended daily intake of cholesterol for adults is 300 milligrams, so eating three eggs could be unwise. Eggs are also off-limits to vegans and strict vegetarians.

What to do? A half cup of walnuts will provide you with 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids to help you absorb raw vegetables’ carotenoids. Omega-3 fatty acids are also anticarcinogens, they are known to improve brain function and prevent heart disease, and they’re linked with lessening asthma, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, macular degeneration, and gastrointestinal disorders.

Compared to eggs, walnuts contain more unsaturated fats and less saturated fat; provide more vitamin C, folate, thiamin, niacin, and vitamin B6; and offer most of the same nutrients, though in slightly smaller amounts. Most importantly, walnuts have no cholesterol.

What do you think?