When it comes to making vegetables more enjoyable to the average consumer, cooking them in a variety of ways is top on the list of ways to enhance the flavor. However, are you cooking nutrients out of your food? Is it raw or bust when it comes to your fruits and veggies? What about with your meats?
Of course not.
There are plenty of options for cooking and it depends more on the nutrient in the foods then it does the food item on what types of cooking can be done for each. Here are some of the most common nutrients and some good ideas on how to keep it from losing the nutrient value when it comes to cooking.
Vitamins A, E, and D:
These guys are fat-soluble vitamins which means cooking them in oil is going to hurt the overall nutrient density quite a bit. Use as little oil as possible with these and try to bake/broil these kind of foods whenever possible. Frying them is going to give up about 60% of the nutrient density.
Some examples of these vegetables are Butternut Squash, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Apricots, Spinach, and soy.
Heat is really going to take out your B vitamins, and while cooking things to the proper temperature is definitely a must when it comes meats, your breads and grains can handle a little bit less. Don’t overbake your breads or anything like that, and unless your rice/grains specifically need to be rinsed beforehand or after, skip that step. Grains can lose up to 25% of their B vitamins during that point.
The B vitamins are most dense in dark, leafy vegetables.
Water is the enemy of vitamins C. Boiling your fruits and veggies in too much water can greatly decrease the nutrient density there. For example, if you cook 1 cup of cabbage in 4 cups of water, by the time you’re done, the cabbage will have lost around 90% of the vitamin C nutrients during cooking. If you’re going to cook these with water then the best option is often to steam the vegetables. It has some of the smallest nutrient loss out there.
Root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes will actually retain more of their nutrients during cooking, but you will still lose over half of their vitamin C while boiling.
So there you have it. Depending on which nutrients you’re trying to get out of your food, there are many different types of methods for cooking. Make sure to blanch most vegetables and fruits (not grains!) before cooking them. This is another way to help seal the nutrients in preparation for cooking.