Impact to Nutrients of Cooking Fresh Foods
Cooking fresh foods almost always changes the nutrient value in some way, often times lowering it. However, cooking foods also has many advantages in addition to making it taste better. It also breaks down tough fibrous vegetables that are not edible when raw, it kills harmful bacteria that can cause illness and it makes plant phytochemicals more available. Learning which vitamins degrade the most during cooking, as well as proper cooking techniques, is the key to serving the healthiest dish.
Many fat-soluble vitamins, such as niacin, biotin, pantothenic acid, vitamin K, A, D and E, are more stable and thus not affected as much by the cooking method. However, water-soluble vitamins, such as B, C, folate and thiamine, are more unstable and can degrade or be destroyed by the wrong cooking process.
Boiling is not an optimal preparation method, as many nutrients seep out into the water. Avoid boiling vegetables unless you plan to use the nutrient-rich broth for soups or stews later. Instead, microwave, steam, bake or grill vegetables. Pressure cooking and stir-frying are both quick cooking methods that also preserve the most nutrients. Additionally, food that is chopped into small pieces loses more nutrients during cooking than food which remains whole. Avoid chopping vegetables until just before serving.
Storage Time Matters
It’s not only how you cook fresh vegetables but also how soon you cook it after it is harvested. The longer a vegetable takes to get from the field to your table the more vitamins and nutrients that it loses. In fact, cooked vegetables that are reheated after being kept in the refrigerator for two or three days lose more than half their vitamin C content. Thus, cook with fresh ingredients whenever possible and consume them as quickly as possible.
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