But Don't Cook These
Heat can destroy the antioxidant-increasing nutrient allicin in both garlic and onions. So when you prepare food like a skillet dish, add them as late as you can.
And Be Sure to Cook Them Right
When you're cooking vegetables, steam them, don't boil. Too much H2O can pull out as much as half of the water-soluble nutrients like vitamins C and B6, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. Cut vegetables into large pieces before you steam them, and be careful not to overcook. The greater the surface area, the more nutrients can leach out, Blatner says. You can also nuke large pieces of vegetables—like broccoli or cauliflower florets about the size of golf balls—for 7 to 8 minutes with only 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to keep the most nutrients intact.
Eat Iron After Breakfast
If you eat cereal with milk for breakfast, slot an iron-rich meal or your iron-packed multivitamin later in the day. Calcium and iron compete for absorption, says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of The 10 Habits that Mess Up a Woman's Diet. If you drink coffee or tea in the morning, that's yet another reason to delay ingesting iron-rich foods: The compounds called tannin in those beverages bind with the iron, making as much as 80 percent of it unavailable for absorption, says Somer. That's a big deal, given that a fifth of menstruating women have an iron deficiency.
Don't Eat on the Run
Stress interferes with your body's ability to absorb vitamins and minerals and causes it to excrete them—especially calcium, which is already deficient in 78 percent of women over age 20. Take at least 15 minutes to eat breakfast and 45 each for lunch and dinner, says Marc David, author of The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy, and Weight Loss.