The Best Way to Preserve Nutrients When Preparing Vegetables
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If your goal includes losing weight or just cleaning up your nutrition act, you might find filling your plate with vegetables part of the grand solution, turning a fleeting “diet” into a real lifestyle.
If you’re going to make the effort to consume more vegetables, you might as well get the most nutrients out of them. Most veggies are sensitive to time, cooking temperature, means of storage and light exposure. Here’s a simple guide to preserving those meaningful vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that keep our bodies healthy and strong, fighting off cancers, heart disease and aiding in weight loss.
Consume sooner rather than later. When vegetables are picked they are usually at their nutrient peak and as time passes their nutrients start to diminish. Seek out local and/or seasonal produce because there’s less time from farm to table. Eat them as soon as possible after purchase for maximum nutrient benefit.
Store vegetables properly. Keep veggies cool to prevent breakdown of vitamins. Refrigerate them in airtight moisture-proof containers.
Cook carefully and quickly. To preserve water-soluble vitamins such as vitamins B and C, cut veggies into large pieces or cook them whole. As a general rule, keep cooking time, temperature and the amount of liquid to a minimum. Top cooking methods to retain nutrients are microwaving, steaming and pan or wok cooking with minimal amounts of water and a tight-fitting lid. The less contact to water and the shorter cooking time allows less exposure to heat. Baking and roasting are other healthy options for most veggies. Cook vegetables with their skins intact and minimize reheating food.
What are the best vegetables to eat you ask? It’s simple. They are the ones you will actually eat! Therefore, factor in taste when deciding on the cooking method of choice. To get the maximum benefit, enjoy a variety of colorful vegetables and to keep things interesting prepare them in different ways.
If you make just one change in January, aim to increase your veggie intake by one or two servings a day. One serving is equal to half a cup cooked or one cup raw. Ideally the recommendations call for two or more cups a day, however making progress is really the key ingredient to your long term success. For the next 21 days, the time it takes to form a new habit, start on this mission and then keep going. January will feed into February and March and so on. And remember, small changes produce big results!
Article provided by Elana Paddock, RD, LD, CDE, registered and licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Cooper Clinic.