Preserving nutrients when preparing food is vital. As it is many things rob food of nutrients, the main culprits being air, water, heat and fat. For instance, vitamins B, C and folate are heat-sensitive nutrients. Also, cooking in water reduces the antioxidants in vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and kale. Though there will always be some degree of nutrient degradation anytime you prepare and cook food there are several ways to maximize the nutrient retention of your food. Check out this list of dos and don’ts to retain those nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Things you SHOULD do
Rinse in cold water
Reserve scrubbing for thick-skinned veggies
Preserve the leaves on leafy greens (this is where most of the nutrients are)
Remove as little of skin as possible (most of the nutrients are found just beneath skin)
Use a sharp knife when cutting or chopping (reduces incidence of bruising which compromises nutrient quality)
Steam cook adding vegetables only after water is boiling (high temperatures of steam locks in the nutrients)
Saute & stir-fry using a tablespoon or so of oil (again high temperatures lock in the nutrients
Purchase from your local farmers (less time food is stored less nutrients lost in shipping & storage process)
Eat raw fruits & vegetables (salads & smoothies are always refreshing)
Cook in stainless steel, glass or enamel (Copper in copper pots destroy vitamins)
Keep vegetables that easily dry or wilt (e.g. spinach, broccoli & celery) in a slightly humid, dark, cool atmosphere
Things you SHOULD NOT do:
Bake: Baking isn’t a good cooking method because the long cooking times kill nutrients.
Peel and Trim: Many peels contain lots of minerals, vitamins & fiber so peeling should be avoided when possible.
Boil: Boiling destroys most nutrients because prolonged cooking time & nutrients go into water. In fact, nearly 80% of vitamins, minerals & nutrients are lost to this cooking method.
Soak: Soaking chopped, sliced or peeled veggies destroys nutrients.
Expose to Air & Light: When exposed to air and light nutrients in chopped, sliced and peeled are destroyed so cook immediately.
Eat processed foods: Processing destroys nutrients, vitamins & minerals so frozen or dried is actually a better choice.
Pre-wash: Don’t wash until ready for use to curtail bacterial growth and reduce nutrient degradation.
Refrigerate potatoes, onions & water squash: Since their starch converts to sugar they should be stored in a cook, dark, well-ventilated atmosphere.
The nutrients found in fruits and vegetables are necessary to support the human body therefore, preserving them in the manner of preparation, cooking and storage is vital to our nutritional health. Of equal importance is taking care when shopping to pick fruits and vegetables that are bright in color, crisp, firm in texture and free of bruising, cracks and insect bites. Nonetheless, despite all of this don’t drive yourself over the deep-end trying to rescue the nutrients. What’s most important is that you take whatever steps that you can to minimize nutrient degradation and enjoy the deliciousness of eating.