Nutritional Impact of Food Processing Methods
Sometimes, the way food is packaged, prepared or cooked affects its nutritional value. Freezing, canning, drying, microwaving or steaming are some examples:
When you can food, it is heated inside the container in which it is sealed. This allows for killing off harmful bacteria and other pathogens that could result in sickness and disease. It also changes how the food looks and tastes, even making it less appealing. In addition, some of the nutrients including water-soluble vitamins present in some foods are affected by high temperatures.
Microwaving food always seems to lead to the most controversy. Some researchers say it reduces some nutrients. However, others say that it retains more water-soluble vitamins including vitamin C than does cooking it any other way. Steaming food, however, seems to be still considered the “best” way to cook food.
Preserving food in the freezer usually retains more nutrients than if you were to can them. For the most part, the foods maintain the same benefit as when fresh unless they have undergone too much processing before freezing. However, freezing food usually requires a lesser use of preservatives than foods packaged some other way.
Using a food dehydrator also changes the composition of food in some ways. A huge difference is that the level of vitamin C may be reduced. The drying process also usually condenses the energy normally found in foods, and this could cause weight gain. You have to be careful when reconstituting it, too. If possible, find a way to use the water used to cook the dried food in a sauce or dip to retain nutrients lost during heating.
Steaming is often the preferred way to cook vegetables in particular. When you use low heat and just enough water to cook them to a firm yet tender consistency, they maintain their texture and color. They also taste fresh, and they maintain most of their nutritional value.
The best way to benefit from the nutrients foods can provide is growing your own. Then, you have control over how food is packaged, prepared and cooked. This allows you to choose how they are processed before you eat them.
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