How Cooking Affects the Nutrition Content of Vegetables

Cooking vegetables

Whenever you buy vegetables, the clock is ticking on their nutritional value. Fresh vegetables contain enzymes that can degrade their own vitamins, so as time passes, they lose their potency. Storing your veggies in the refrigerator can slow the process, so cool off your produce before you even begin to worry about the right way to cook it.

When it comes to cooking, you've probably heard that raw is better. Nutritionally speaking, that's true. But here's the other thing: Raw can be boring. There's nothing wrong with adding some variety by cooking your veggies. The key is to do as little damage as possible to veggie nutrients by using low heat, water and time.

Your best options? A pressure cooker, microwave, or steamer. A pressure cooker or a microwave uses little or no water and can cook vegetables within two to three minutes. Steaming takes slightly longer but still uses low heat and little water. Using minimal water is important to protect vegetables that contain water-soluble vitamins, particularly vitamins B and C, which dissolve easily in excess water.

Frying, roasting and grilling are more destructive to a vegetable's nutrients because they cook at higher temperatures. If you want to use one of those methods, try steaming or microwaving your veggies first, then use the grill or fryer for just a minute or two to achieve the taste and texture you desire. Griddles are another great option for achieving the same texture as grilling using a much lower heat.

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Kait Fortunato Kait Fortunato - Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations for athletes of all ages and activity levels, and she is an active member of the Sports Dietetic Practice Gro
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