We eat vegetables and fruits and think we are doing best for our health and getting specific amount of vitamin, minerals, protein etc. but have we ever wondered our cooking also effects on these nutrients. Our cooking has effects on the nutrition that we eat, some are positive and some are negative. Have you ever noticed when you’ve boiled carrots or broccoli and the water changes colour? That’s usually related to the vitamins that have been lost in the water. So, if you’re over-boiling them, then you will lose some of the nutrients. But this doesn’t mean you should immediately stop cooking your veggies and adopt an all-raw diet.
When you cook some vegetables, the nutrients might be better available for the body. If there’s a vegetable that’s quite tough, take carrots as an example, cooking the veggies softens them, so that helps the body access the nutrients in the vegetables.
Being aware of these effects and making changes in techniques that we use for cooking is all that one can do, so that we get maximum benefit of the food we eat.
Here are the simple tips that you can use while cooking
- Always cover the pan in which vegetables are being cooked to save nutrients to get evaporated in air. Use minimum water while cooking so that minimum water-soluble vitamins are not leached in water.
- When peeling the skin of vegetables do peel as thinly as possible. The nutrients in vegetables and fruits are concentrated just below the skin, so peeling before boiling increases the loss of Vitamin C, Folic Acid and other B vitamins. The peels of carrot, radish, gourd and ginger can be scraped instead of peeling. Peel only when absolutely necessary.
- Do not throw away the excess water drained after boiling rice or vegetables. Use them in soups or kneading dough.
- When preparing cottage cheese, the water left over after curdling (called whey)-is extremely rich in good quality proteins and vitamins and should be used up in preparing gravies or Kadhi.
- Root vegetables should be boiled with skins on and then peeled after boiling. This helps the nutrients to migrate to the centre of the vegetables, helping better retention of its nutrients. Do eat with skin on whenever possible.
- Baking soda makes cooking water alkaline and thus helps retain the colour of vegetables as well as speed up the cooking process, but it destroys thiamine and vitamin C.
- Don’t soak vegetables in water to prevent discoloration-Almost 40% of water-soluble vitamins and minerals are lost in the water. If you must soak, use up the soaking water to knead the dough, prepare soups and gravies
- Steaming is one of the best cooking methods for preserving nutrients, including water-soluble vitamins that are sensitive to heat and water. A study found that steaming broccoli, spinach and lettuce reduces their vitamin C content by only 9-15%.
- Pressure cooking preserves the nutritional value of the foods. The high heat, intense pressure and shorter cooking times reduce vitamin and mineral losses occurring in other cooking methods.
- Cover the vegetable while microwaving it to still further reduce loss of nutrients. Shorter cooking times and reduced exposure to heat are the keys to preserve the nutrients and flavours in microwaved foods.
- When fat is used as medium of cooking, sautéing, stir-frying and shallow fat frying are the healthier ways to prepare foods, because cooking for a short time without water prevents loss of B and C vitamins. The addition of fat improves the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants.
- Deep frying and heating for a long time or heating at a high temperature should be avoided during cooking. If food material is heated above 700 C for a long duration, proteins become hard and coagulated. In this form, they are not easily absorbed by the body. Thus, overcooking results in loss of precious nutrients.
- Do not keep milk open or exposed to light, as a considerable destruction of riboflavin can occur.
- Iron vessels are one of the best things to prepare food. When the food is cooked in iron vessels, the iron content of the food goes up. However, iron vessels destroy the Vitamin C present in the food. Apart from iron, stainless steel and non-stick cookware is good for cooking. But, do not opt for copper, brass, bronze or aluminium cookware as they easily react with the acids present in the food.
- The smaller the size of cut vegetables, the less nutritious they become. This is because they are exposed to more oxygen, which destroys their nutrient. If you desire to preserve the nutrients, chop spinach, lettuce or cabbage roughly or coarsely. the finer the size of the veggies, the earlier they should be consumed to get all the nutrition from them. Prepare salad just before serving. Further, serve salad in close containers to avoid exposure.
- Reheating food makes it less nutritious. The general rule is to eat fresh food. However, if you are pressed for time and feel the need to prepare food in large batches, then you need to follow some rules. After cooking the food, let it cool down for some time. Post this, cover it and refrigerate. Reheat only a required portion of food.
What Takes Nutrients Out of Food?
|Vitamin A||X||X||To reduce the loss of fat-soluble vitamins A and E, cook with very little oil.|
|Vitamin D||X||To reduce the loss of fat-soluble vitamins A and E, cook with very little oil.|
|Vitamin E||X||X||X||To reduce the loss of fat-soluble vitamins A and E, cook with very little oil.|
|Vitamin C||X||X||X||To reduce the loss of water-soluble, oxygen-sensitive vitamin C, cook fruits and vegetables in the least possible amount of water.|
|Thiamine||X||X||Do not rinse grains (rice) before cooking unless the package advises you to do so (some rice does need to be rinsed). Washing rice once may take away as much as 25 percent of the thiamine (vitamin B1).|
|Riboflavin||X||Cover the milk always and keep in dark place|
|Vitamin B6||X||X||X||Strategies that conserve protein in meat and poultry during cooking also work to conserve the B vitamins that leak out into cooking liquid or drippings: Use the cooking liquid in soup or sauce.|
|Vitamin B12||X||X||Do not rinse grains (rice) before cooking unless the package advises you to do so (some rice does need to be rinsed). Washing rice once may take away as much as 25 percent of the thiamine (vitamin B1).|