With so many different health fads and opposing points of view, health experts and nutritionists seem to disagree on everything. There is, however, one rule in nutrition that every good health expert will agree on:
The less processed a food is, the higher its nutritional content will be.
Food loses its vitamin content along every step of processing. But does Cooking Reduce Nutrients in Vegetables?
Chemicals like preservatives, colorants, and flavorings are added to the food. Another factor is extreme heat.
Does the heat of boiling water or cooking reduce nutrients in vegetables or food? And if so, how many vitamins are lost? Let’s find out.
Importance of Nutrients in Vegetables- Why you Need Them
Vegetables are packed with nutrients that our body need to survive and grow. Vitamins like Vitamin C and Vitamin B are water-soluble (they dissolve in water)- very important for daily intake because your body does not store them and discards any excess via urination.
A lot of Vitamin C and Vitamin B, as well as rich plant compounds, are lost by cooking vegetables in water.
Not all of the vitamin C content is lost through the cooking water.Vitamin C is very vulnerable to heat. This will explain why so much of it is lost while cooking.
Fat-Soluble Vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, E, and K are needed so that our bodies are able to store them in fat cells.
Cooking these nutrients out of vegetables reduces our daily intake of these vitamins. Since these vitamins are fat-soluble, they aren’t as readily reduced in water. They are, however, particularly vulnerable in cooking methods that use oil to heat the food (such as frying, baking, and grilling). These vitamins are reduced at a much lower rate than Vitamin B and C.
How to Retain the Vitamin C and Vitamin B in Cooked Vegetables
- Recycle the nutrients in the water
Although some of the vitamins are lost by heat, a lot of them dissolve into the water. You can repurpose this nutrient-dense water by using it in soups or sauces. Talk about Vitamin water!
- Steaming is better than boiling
Steamed vegetables have higher Vitamin C and B contents compared to their boiled counterparts.
Less of these vitamins are lost because the water doesn’t directly touch them and leach the nutrients away.
- Use dry heat methods
Another great way to reduce the water-soluble vitamin loss of vegetables is to opt for dry-cooking methods instead. These may include grilling or roasting.
Remember to use as little oil as possible. Heated oils raise foods too much higher temperatures very quickly – often unnecessarily. Plant oils tend to have unhealthy reactions when super-heated via methods like frying.
Is Microwaving the Solution to Lost Nutrients in Vegetables?
Microwaves aren’t as bad as we think.
Many people, like me, imagine healthy foods being turned into radioactive materials as soon as they enter the microwave.
In fact, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has been regulating microwaves since the early ’70s. Cooking in the microwave might actually retain more nutrients than with other methods.
Research about Microwaving Vegetables
The Harvard University compared the nutrient density of foods after microwaving.
The Journal of Food Science wrote a report in 2009 that compared the nutrient density of foods after boiling, steaming, baking, and microwaving. Their report showed that microwaving actually preserved the highest amount of antioxidants in most cases.
This might seem ironic since antioxidants protect cells from damage like radiation. Microwaving even outranked steaming in terms of nutrient preservation.
In some cases, microwaving certain foods actually increased their antioxidant activity. These foods include Swiss chard, corn, peppers, and eggplants. Not surprisingly, boiling and pressure cooking led to the greatest losses in antioxidants.
Why is Microwaving so Much Better Than Other Forms of Cooking?
One of the biggest reasons is shorter cooking times. The second reason is that the total heat was considerably less than in other cooking methods. Thirdly, less water is used, which leads to fewer nutrients being leached away.
Is raw always best?
Nutrient Bio-availability in Cooking Vegetables
The answer will shock you as much as it did me while researching this topic. There seems to be a biological benefit to cooking vegetables before eating them. Your body is able to absorb more nutrients from cooked vegetables.
The nutrient quantity does not increase, but the nutrient bio-availability does.
Just because you eat a nutrient-dense food does not mean that your body will absorb all of it before it passes through your system.
There are parts of plants that our bodies can’t digest: fiber. The fact that fiber is unusable by the body is typically very beneficial.
It adds bulk to our bowel movements and slows down the digestion process. This is exactly why the sugar that we find in fruit does not spike our blood sugar in the same way as added sugar: The body can’t access it as readily.
The fibrous content of vegetables will help clean up your gut, but it may also lock away beneficial nutrients that your digestive system can’t access.
Why Cook Vegetables at all?
The fact that cooking breaks down the nutrient content of food are the same reason why it makes these nutrients The cooking process can break apart the cell walls of plant foods and release the nutrients that are in them.
There are certain nutrients that become more available in cooked foods. These include many important antioxidants.more available for absorption. Variety is always better.
Cooking seems to reduce vitamin B and C content while allowing for the absorption of other nutrients. Steaming causes less reduction in water-soluble vitamins than boiling. Microwaving vegetables is not as bad as we think and may even be better than other cooking methods. Cooking is needed for the release of some nutrients that are bound to the cell walls of plants.
Nutrition Products you May Be Interested In:
All of this information might sound confusing, but what it does confirm is that variety is always better. By having healthy portions of both cooked and uncooked fruit and vegetables, you give your body the ability to absorb all the different nutrients that it needs.
Check out our favorite juicers, as these are another option for eating uncooked produce.
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