Cooking is not only a culinary art but also a source of nutrition, taste and good health.
Though we all try to eat healthy and cook healthy, we often overlook or forget that all foods must be had as freshly and with as little handling as possible to retain their maximum benefits. Becoming aware of what happens to the food when it is over-handled, will enable you to adjust how you prepare your food and how best to retain its nutrients.
- The most easily destroyed nutrients are the water soluble ones. E.g. Vitamin B complex and C are lost by exposure to excess water, air, heat, and light.
- Fat-soluble vitamins on the other hand e.g. A, D, E, and K are more stable. Cooking in acid media has a protective effect against vitamins.
- Proteins are not lost much in daily cooking. They may get denatured if overcooked.
- Minerals leach out from boiled legumes but their loss is lesser then vitamins.
Amongst the various cooking methods, microwave and pressure cooking are usually best at preserving nutrients in vegetables because food cooks faster and requires no added water. There is little nutritional loss when reheating leftovers or cooking frozen foods in the microwave.
Whichever cooking method is chosen, some care is necessary.
DO'S AND DON'TS FOR RETENTION OF NUTRIENTS
- 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 cut vegetables into very small cubes as each small part comes in contact with oxygen, destroying vitamins.
- Do not soak vegetables in water to prevent discoloration. Almost 40 % of the water soluble vitamins and minerals are lost in the soaking water. If you must soak, use up the soaking water to knead dough, prepare soups and gravies.
- Root vegetables should be boiled with skins on and then peeled after boiling. This helps the nutrients to migrate to the center of the vegetables, helping better retention of its nutrients. Do eat with skin on whenever possible.
- Certain amount of minerals and vitamins are lost even during preliminary washing before cooking. Washing may remove as much as 40% of the thiamine and nicotinic acid. Thats why it is preferable to wash rice with minimum amount of water.
- Salads should be prepared just before serving and should be served in closed dishes to avoid excessive exposure to air.
- Do not throw away the excess water drained after boiling rice or vegetables. When preparing cottage cheese, the water left over after curdling is called whey. It is extremely rich in good quality proteins and vitamins and should be used up in preparing gravies, kneading dough or simply had as a refreshing drink after flavoring with lemon juice and salt and pepper.
- Do not keep milk open or exposed to light, as considerable destruction of riboflavin can occur.
- Baking soda makes cooking water alkaline and thus helps retain the color of vegetables as well as speed up the cooking process, BUT it destroys thiamin and vitamin C.
- Cooked vegetables when exposed to the atmosphere before serving may also result in loss of vitamin C. It is preferable to cook vegetables in minimum amount of water keeping the vessel covered and to consume it as soon as possible. Reheating cooked vegetables further destroys vitamins.
Such extra care can save precious nutrients. Instead of cooking only for taste and relish, we should try to get the most from our food.By Ms. Janki Patel
Dietitian, www.NutritionVista.comJoin the NutritionVista circle, and become a member Today!
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