Diet & Nutrition
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Diet & Nutrition

4 Cooking Methods To Reduce Nutrient Loss

We have all been into exploring food preparation methods as our favorite pastime, and now end up making huge meals for the family. Isn’t it? There are so many ways in which one food can be prepared, and the choice depends on our time, patience, and effort. The consumption of whole foods, fruits, and vegetables has rapidly increased in recent years due to their health benefits. These foods undergo various heat treatments like steaming, blanching, boiling, microwaving, grilling, etc. During this process of cooking, some nutrients are lost and some nutrients are enhanced for better absorption. Have you all ever wondered about the right way to cook different foods? We heard you! 🙂 Yes, there are a few tips and tricks on how to make sure nutrient losses do not happen during the process of cooking.

Some of the cooking methods are baking, roasting, frying, grilling, barbecuing, smoking, boiling, steaming, braising, and most recently air frying. The air fryer works by circulating hot air around the food to make it crunchy and crispy just like deep-fried foods. How far are these cooking methods safe? Do you think these are easy and reliable on day to day basis? The way you cook your food may affect the amount of nutrients you get from them.

Cooking food improves digestion and absorption of many nutrients like protein in cooked eggs is 180% more digestible than that of raw eggs. But Cooking also results in the loss of several nutrients like vitamins and minerals.

Lets us now see the 4 best cooking methods —

  1. Sauteing: Sauteing is one of the best ways to cook to make sure all the nutrients are retained. It is common to see nutrient losses in small amounts in any method of cooking. There are ways to minimize these losses by following some simple tips. Cut your vegetables into larger pieces. When more small chunks of cut surfaces are available, more nutrients are likely to be lost. Do not remove the peel of vegetables if it is edible, since this is where nutrients are concentrated. Vitamins and minerals are lost when they are exposed to air for longer periods. So start sauteing as soon as they are chopped. Don’t you find these tips easy? Yes, They are. Try and maximize your nutrient uptake without significant losses.

2. Steaming: The effects of different cooking methods like boiling, stir-frying, steaming, and microwaving have been extensively studied and found that steaming is the only cooking method that did not cause any significant amount of nutrient losses. This is mainly because food is in less contact with water and retains most of its nutrients. Steaming can be done for vegetables, dumplings, etc.

3. Grilling: Grilling can be one of the vacay-spot cooking options for most of us. It gives that smoky and wonderful texture to food. But do you know the amount of nutrients lost during grilling? Not to worry because these are also basic. Vitamin C and B, as usual, are most affected but due to such cooking methods, some of the nutrients are released from the cell walls to make them readily available for absorption. All that pleasant crunch they give can be enjoyed. To make sure other vitamins and minerals are also included try and take different fruits and vegetables. Vegetables, mushrooms, fruits, poultry, and meat can all be grilled and enjoyed with a squeeze of lemon!

4. Boiling, Simmering, and Poaching: All these are similar cooking methods that use water as a medium. Boiling is the hottest and poaching is a gentle method among these three. Poaching is a type of cooking method that is used in delicate foods such as eggs, fish, fruits, and some organ meats. Simmering is ideal for braises, stews, soups, stocks, etc. Boiling includes high-temperature cooking such as pasta, and vegetables like beans, beetroots, etc. Vitamin C and Vitamin B are water-soluble and heat-sensitive and these are greatly lost in the process of boiling. 60% of thiamine, niacin and other B vitamins are lost when boiled. The water used for boiling can be re-used by adding that water to stocks, or pasta dough, making gravy, using the veggie water to cook pasta and rice, save the water for watering plants too. Isn’t this a wonderful idea? You can re-intake all those lost nutrients in the water again! yay!

Tips to reduce the nutrient losses while cooking vegetables —

  1. Keep the skins on if edible
  2. Avoid continuous reheating of food
  3. Use a minimal amount of cooking liquid
  4. Choose the steaming method over boiling
  5. Retain the cooking liquid for future use if boiling
  6. Cut vegetables into larger chunks
  7. Avoid using baking soda to retain the color.
  8. Cover the vegetables while microwaving them to further reduce the loss of nutrients.

Though few techniques will work best for certain food and few tend to result in nutrient losses, it is best to always keep it simple and less processed. Pressure cooking for about 3 minutes improves the protein digestibility of legumes and reduces the anti-nutrients considerably. But vitamins and minerals that are heat sensitive might get lost during the process of pressure cooking. Also, research suggests that microwaving is the best method for retaining antioxidant activity. About 20–30% of vitamin C in green vegetables is lost during microwaving is significantly less when compared to other cooking methods. Be mindful of the fat/ oil used in cooking. Oils when heated above their smoking point may turn rancid and harmful for consumption. Do not reuse oils. Cook for shorter periods at lower temperatures with minimal liquid to help retain the nutritive value of foods.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6049644/

https://www.henryford.com/blog/2019/05/healthy-cooking-methods

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cooking-nutrient-content

https://blog.greenredeem.co.uk/10-ways-to-reuse-your-cooking-water-this-christmas/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2722699/

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Nutritionist Vasundhara Agrawal

Nutritionist Vasundhara Agrawal

Lifestyle Trainer & Nutrition Coach | I help you #livehealthy