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    Nine Tips to Increase Nutrition and Flavor in Meals

    by Melissa Kaplan, MS, RD (AWC Central Scotland)

    Improve your health and lower risk of chronic disease, with these nine tips to increase the nutrition and flavor in recipes and meals:

    1. Presentation: Flavor is created in the brain from our senses of taste and smell, but we eat first with our eyes. Think about how food is presented, how colorful it looks, the eye appeal, and texture. Try to include a variety of colors and textures on the plate. The more varied the presentation is, the more appealing the food.

    2. Ingredient quality: Purchase the highest quality ingredients that your budget allows. Higher quality olive oils are more likely to last longer, whole grains are likely to be fresher, and higher quality spices will have more flavor and potency.

    3. Storage of cooking oils: Oils are an essential ingredient in many meals and it is important to store oils correctly to maintain excellent flavor. Certain cooking oils will oxidize faster than others leading to a less stable shelf life. For example, olive oil once opened should be stored in a cool, dark place (like your pantry). Walnut oil is less stable and should be stored in the refrigerator, along with flaxseed and hempseed oil.

    4. Salt: The sodium content of different salts is significant because of their different crystal structures and particle sizes. A heavier, denser crystal will have a greater sodium content per measure compared to a lighter, fluffier crystal. Using salt with a lighter, less-dense crystal structure, like Kosher salt, is one way to reduce sodium intake without reducing the flavor impact of salt. Some salts contain potassium chloride and therefore have a lower sodium content per measure, but many people can detect an unpleasant flavor.

    5. Ingredients: The easiest way to reach the goal of making half your plate or half your intake fruits and vegetables is to make half of the ingredients in a recipe fruits and vegetables. When trying out new recipes or menus, consider ways to add more fruits and vegetables in all forms, including fresh, frozen, canned, dried, or consider a side of vegetables in addition to recipe.

    6. Techniques: Some raw vegetables have little flavor, so it is no wonder many people do not want to eat them. However, damaging the vegetable’s cells by heating, chopping, or grating actually releases enzymes, which in turn creates flavor. This is true for most vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts). The more damage, the more flavor. Blanching reduces bitterness while maintaining crunchiness and vibrant color. Roasting creates a rich flavor and browning. Include these strategies.

    7. Mushrooms: Mushrooms that are oven-roasted have a higher perceived umami flavor profile compared to mushrooms that are steamed, sautéed, or seared. Oven-roasting also brings a “meatier” texture due to moisture loss, making them a perfect replacement to recipes calling for ground beef, pork, chicken, or turkey.

    8. Slow cooking onions: Cutting onions creates harsh aromas, but slowly cooking or sautéing the onions transforms the aroma from harsh and biting to sweet and appealing.

    9. Brining beans: Brining beans, instead of soaking in plain tap water, enhances flavor and texture without compromising nutrition. Brining beans produces creamy interiors with tender, intact bean skins. Brine beans with 1.5 tablespoons of salt per 2 quarts of water for 8 to 24 hours at room temperature. Then cook beans in the oven for one hour at 178°C. One half-cup portion of brined beans contain approximately 50 mg sodium. Also, add flavor throughout the brining process by adding garlic, onion, rosemary, sage, or thyme to brining water.


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