The methods in which we store, prepare and cook our foods can affect the level of vitamins and minerals available to our bodies. Many vitamins are susceptible to damage through heat, air, moisture and light. Minerals are generally more stable, but can also be diminished through cooking processes.
So, what can we do to make the most of the nutrition in our food?
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, fresh, frozen or canned are all excellent choices. Frozen fruit and vegetables retain their vitamins and minerals well due to the freezing process. Canning procedures have also become much more efficient in recent years, and a higher percentage of nutrients are now retained. Of course, purchasing canned fruits and vegetables that are packed in water is the healthier alternative to syrups and high sodium mixtures.
With fresh fruits and vegetables, it is recommended to buy them often and in small amounts. Ensure that you keep fruits and vegetables cool, and aim to eat them within a few days. The longer they remain in storage, the more their nutritional value may gradually decrease. If you enjoy cutting your own fruit, it’s best to slice in large chunks, rather than tiny slices-that way there is less surface area exposed to air. It is also helpful to avoid peeling wherever possible, as the level of vitamins tends to be highly concentrated under the skin. Once these vitamins are exposed to air after peeling, they may be diminished.
For dairy products, especially milk-it’s important to avoid sun exposure, as sunlight destroys the B vitamin riboflavin. In terms of preparation, avoid allowing cut vegetables to be exposed to air, heat or light for an extended period of time-and do not soak them before cooking, as water may leach important vitamins and minerals. Never use bicarbonate of soda to keep vegetables green, as this will completely destroy vitamin C.
It is best to cook vegetables for the minimum amount of time required to reduce the amount of nutrients lost. Steaming, stir-frying and microwaving are all excellent cooking methods, which are used to retain vitamins. If you are boiling vegetables, use the minimum amount of water possible and introduce the vegetables straight to the hot water, using a tight fitting lid to cover them. Once food is cooked, try to eat as soon as possible (without leaving it sitting on the burner for too long), as excessive heat may also be damaging to the nutritional quality of food.
Post by: Nora Heighton