Thursday, April 10, 2014

Keeping the Nutrients In

Question: Does cooking vegetables reduce their nutrient content?
Answer: It depends on the type of nutrient.

Raw, boiled, steamed, stir-fry, microwave… the possibilities for serving up your favorite veggie is as varied as the produce aisle. But which method is the best for getting the most nutrition out of each bite? While most people learned that raw is better than cooked, the real answer is not quite so simple. Research in this area shows that one method that retains the maximum amount of one nutrient just might not be the best option for other nutrients.

Let’s break it down:

Water-soluble Nutrients
The heat and water used in cooking and processing can reduce water-soluble vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, vitamin B and polyphenolics. Depending on the method used, loss of vitamin C during home cooking typically can range from 15 percent to 55 percent, according to one study.1

Microwaving, steaming and stir-frying (methods that limit the use of water) are the best methods to preserve water-soluble vitamins and minerals. Grilling and broiling also are good ways to preserve these nutrients.

If you are using water to cook them, cook them quickly, and use only the smallest amount of liquid necessary.  They should be tender-crisp, not mushy. Also, cut them after they have cooked to retain as much nutrients as possible. You can save the water you cooked the produce with for use in gravy to regain some of those lost nutrients.

Fat-soluble Nutrients
Alternately, fat-soluble compounds like vitamins A, D, E, and K and carotenoids are not as at risk during cooking. Reports conclude that for carrots, zucchini and broccoli, boiling retained these nutrients more than steaming, frying or even serving them raw.2 However, while boiled carrots had more carotenoid, they did not have as many polyphenols as raw carrots.

As a general rule of thumb: mix it up. To maximize the amount (and type!) of nutrients from your vegetables, eat a variety of produce, prepared in a variety of ways. So get creative in the kitchen with how you cook your vegetables.

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