It’s easy to make nutrients part of a sensible daily diet once you learn there’s such a variety of them within virtually every food group. As with any nutrient, certain foods will always be richer sources than others. Below are super sources of the nutrients that battle arthritis best.
1. Salmon. Salmon is among the richest sources of healthy fats, making it an ideal source of omega-3 fatty acids, especially because it’s less likely than other cold-water fish to harbor high levels of toxic mercury. In addition to its fatty oils, salmon contains calcium, vitamin D, and folate. Besides helping with arthritis, eating salmon may protect the cardiovascular system by preventing blood clots, repairing artery damage, raising levels of good cholesterol, and lowering blood pressure.
Focus on freshness. To avoid bacterial contamination, look for glossy fish that are wrapped to prevent contact with other fish. If you’re buying fish whole, eyes should be clear and bright, not opaque or sunken, and flesh should not be slimy or slippery. Cuts like steaks and fillets should be dense and moist. In all cases, flesh should be firm and spring back if you press it.
Use quickly. Fresh fish spoils fast, so if you can’t eat salmon within a day after purchase, double its shelf life by cooking it right away and storing it in the refrigerator. (It is delicious served cold with cucumbers and dill.)
Tame total fat. While you want the beneficial omega-3s in fish oil, the fat in fish is also loaded with calories. To keep from adding still more calories during preparation, cook salmon using low-fat methods such as baking, poaching, broiling, or steaming, and season with spices such as dill, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, or thyme.
Cook by color. Following the rule of thumb for cooking fish — to wait until flesh is opaque white or light gray — is a tougher call with pink-hued salmon. To ensure doneness, cook salmon until it’s opaque in its thickest part, with juices clear and watery, and flesh flaking easily with the gentle turn of a fork.
2. Bananas. Bananas are perhaps best known for packing potassium, but they’re also good sources of arthritis-fighting vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin C. What’s more, this easily digested, dense fruit is a prime source of soluble fiber, an important part of your diet if you’re trying to lose weight because it helps you feel full without adding calories.
Control ripeness. Bananas are sweetest and easiest to digest when brightly yellowed to full ripeness. To hasten or prolong the period of perfection, put green bananas in a brown paper bag, which encourages natural gases from the bananas to speed the ripening process. Rapidly ripening fruits should be put in the refrigerator, which turns the peel brown, but preserves the fruit inside.
Preserve pieces. Bananas are wonderful additions to salads or desserts, but tend to turn brown faster than other ingredients. Try tossing bananas with a mixture of lemon juice and water — the acid will help preserve them.
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Turn into drinks. Bananas, particularly ripe ones, make great blender drinks. Combine a banana, a peach or some berries, a few ounces of milk, a few ounces of fruit juice, and an ice cube, and blend for a delicious, healthy drink that is jam-packed with arthritis-friendly nutrients.
3. Sweet peppers. A single green pepper contains 176 percent of your daily needs for vitamin C — and colorful red and yellow varieties have more than double that amount. That makes them richer in C than citrus fruits, but sweet peppers are also excellent sources of vitamin B6 and folate.
Lock in nutrients. Store peppers in the refrigerator: The tough, waxy outer shell of bell peppers naturally protects nutrients from degrading due to exposure to oxygen, but you’ll boost the holding power of chemicals in the skin by keeping them cold.
Separate seeds. Whether cutting into crudités, tossing into salads, or stuffing whole, you’ll want to remove tough and bitter-tasting seeds. They’re easily cut when slicing, but when retaining an entire bell for stuffing, cut a circle around the stem at the top of the pepper, lift out the attached membranes, and scoop remaining seeds and membranes with a thick-handled spoon.
Jam them in the juicer. You might not think of peppers as juicer giants, but they can add zest to drinks made from other fruits and vegetables, such as carrots.
Cook as a side dish. Tired of the same old vegetables at dinner? Slice a pepper or two and do a fast sauté in olive oil, adding a pinch of salt, pepper, and your favorite herb. The heat releases the sweetness, making sautéed peppers a wonderful counterpart to meats and starches.
4. Shrimp. Taste and convenience make shrimp the most popular shellfish around. But shrimp also deserves acclaim as one of the few major dietary sources of vitamin D, with three ounces providing 30 percent of the recommended daily amount — more than a cup of fortified milk. Shrimp also contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C, along with other nutrients essential for general health, including iron and vitamin B12.
Select by senses. When buying fresh raw shrimp, look for flesh that’s moist, firm, and translucent, without spots or patches of blackness. Then put your nose to work: Shrimp should smell fresh and not give off an ammonia-like smell, which is a sign of deterioration. If you’re buying shrimp frozen, squeeze the package and listen: The crunch of ice crystals means the shrimp was probably partially thawed, then refrozen — a sign you should find another (less crunchy) package.
Eat or freeze. When you get shrimp home, rinse under cold water and store in the refrigerator for up to two days. If you plan to store beyond that, stick to frozen shrimp, which will keep in the freezer for up to six months.
Cook quickly. Overcooking makes shrimp tough, so it’s best to cook it fast, boiling in water until shells turn pink and flesh becomes opaque, stirring occasionally. Rinse under cold water and serve alone, as part of a seafood chowder, or chilled. Shrimp can also be broiled, grilled, or stir-fried.