Not many lay people know the meaning of the term “exigent food”. It sounds quite clinical – maybe even dangerous? But you’d be mistaken if that was your impression. An exigent food is one that, along with its own inherent nutritional properties, acts to enhance the nutritional properties of other foods. Lemons, as a recent study suggests, could be an excellent exigent food.
published in 2018 in the International Journal of Nutrition and Food Engineering, was conducted by researchers at Ege University in Turkey. It focused specifically on the role that certain foods – like lemons – can play in aiding the bioavailability of carotenoids.
Carotenoids are phytochemicals which produce yellow, orange, and red pigments in plants such as bananas, carrots – even the autumn leaves that change colors. In foods, they are associated with Vitamin A and antioxidant action. Carotenoids have many beneficial properties for human health.
But, there’s one problem: bioavailability.
What does that mean, exactly? It means that, even if you eat carotenoid-rich foods, your body cannot digest and absorb most of the phytonutrient.
- The study looked specifically at carrots, and how much carotenoid was absorbed by the body.
- The carrots were tested boiled, grated, and mashed, and it was found that mashing made the carotenoid more bioaccessible.
- In addition, adding lemon juice, olive oil, and whey curd increased the bioaccessibility by 81%.
Other studies have already confirmed that lemon juice enhances other flavors in cooking – now there’s another proven reason to add more lemon to your life.
Add Lemons The Easy Way
Here are some easy ideas on how to add more lemon juice to your diet – and help your body absorb carotenoids.
- Use a vinaigrette made of equal parts lemon juice and olive oil on a salad made with grated carrots and greens.
- Add a squeeze of lemon juice to orange or tomato juices.
- Freeze lemon juice in an ice cube tray, and pop the lemon ice into all your favorite beverages.
- Squeeze a wedge of lemon over tomatoes, or cooked carrots.
- Create a bruschetta style topping with chopped tomatoes, onions, lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil.
- Use your imagination!