Keep the nutrients in your food

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It’s not just the type of food we choose that affects our health. Their preparation can also have a big impact on their nutritional quality. More than 50% of the vitamins in food can be lost during cooking [1], while certain nutrients are “highlighted” during the cooking process.

What can reduce the nutritional quality of food? The origin, transport, preparation, and storage of food can affect their nutritional content, including oxygen exposure during preparation, the presence of acids, the water in which they are cooked, the temperature and the cooking time [1, 2].

Macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) are generally maintained during cooking, but heating certain types of fats, such as frying in oil at temperatures above 120 ° C, may affect the quality of food [3, 4 ]. Cooking can also change the texture of food, as is the case with e.g. when we beat an egg, we tie the sauce or we melt butter. However, although this may alter the natural characteristics of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, it does not particularly affect nutritional content.

The micronutrients are vitamins and minerals, but the ones most affected during cooking are mainly all the B vitamins, such as folic acid and thiamine (vitamin B1) and vitamin C [1]. These vitamins are found in many foods, such as vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, legumes and dairy products. Vitamins B and C are water soluble and therefore can be easily lost in the water in which food is cooked, e.g. up to 80% of thiamine is lost during boiling [1]. In addition, fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E may also be lost during cooking. According to some studies, 33% of vitamin A is lost during cooking [1, 5]. How to keep as many nutrients in your food as possible

In general, make sure that food is not exposed more than required in the air, in liquids (eg water for cooking and washing) and in heat. This applies to all stages of the cooking process, from selection, storage and preparation to cooking. Always follow the storage instructions on the product label or packaging, e.g. keeping in a cool place.

In general, make sure that food is not exposed more than required in the air, in liquids (eg water for cooking and washing) and in heat. This applies to all stages of the cooking process, from selection, storage and preparation to cooking. Always follow the purchase and storage instructions listed on the label or packaging of the products, e.g. keeping in a cool place.

Take care of your vegetables, as they are highly vulnerable and contain micronutrients that may be damaged by oxygen and heat. When buying fresh vegetables, do not press / squeeze them and do not store them for longer than required, as the beneficial elements they contain are lost as the days go by. When it comes to choosing vegetables, don’t worry if you can’t find fresh produce – frozen vegetables or canned vegetables retain their micronutrients and contain almost the same amount as fresh [6-8].

Food preparation

Limit the amount of water you use during cooking and the duration of the warm-up, because vitamins interact with oxygen and dissolve in water when you cut, wash and boil food [1, 5]. On the other hand, soaking, washing and boiling can highlight the micronutrients of food [5, 9, 10]. For example, boiling rice releases more iron and calcium [5]. In addition, the number of phytonutrients with antioxidant properties increases during cooking of vegetables [10]. Even fermentation and the use of specific oils, acids and spices can enhance the amount of nutrients contained in food after cooking [9-12]. Therefore, by combining raw and cooked foods we can ensure the optimal nutritional value of our meals.

The top 4 preparation and cooking tips

  1. Use oils and baking products that are suitable for frying (check the label).
  2. Avoid chopping vegetables if you are not going to consume the water in which you boil them (eg in a soup or stew) and wash the vegetables before cutting them, if possible.
  3. Boil the potatoes and vegetables in water one to two inches high, with the lid closed and let them boil on steam.
  4. Add the vegetables to boiling water, instead of starting with cold water and waiting for it to boil.

Food leftovers

If you have leftover food, make sure it is not exposed to air, heat or liquids for no reason. Are there any canned foods left over? Remove from the cans and store in an airtight container. Refrigerate lasagna and other dishes as quickly as possible, not only to preserve most of the nutrients, but also to reduce the growth of microorganisms.

References

[1.] Lešková, E., et al., Vitamin losses: Retention during heat treatment and continual changes expressed by mathematical models. Journal of Food Composition and analysis, 2006. 19(4): p. 252-276.

[2.] Rumm-Kreuter, D. and I. Demmel, Comparison of vitamin losses in vegetables due to various cooking methods. Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology, 1990. 36(4-SupplementI): p. S7-S15.

[3.] Choe, E. and D.B. Min, Chemistry of Deep-Fat Frying Oils. Journal of Food Science, 2007. 72(5): p. R77-R86.

[4.         Boskou, D., Frying fats. 2003: CRC Press, Wasington DC, USA.

[5.] Liu, K., et al., Effects of household cooking processes on mineral, vitamin B, and phytic acid contents and mineral bioaccessibility in rice. Food Chemistry, 2019. 280: p. 59-64.

[6.] Bouzari, A., D. Holstege, and D.M. Barrett, Vitamin Retention in Eight Fruits and Vegetables: A Comparison of Refrigerated and Frozen Storage. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2015. 63(3): p. 957-962.

[7.]  Bouzari, A., D. Holstege, and D.M. Barrett, Mineral, Fiber, and Total Phenolic Retention in Eight Fruits and Vegetables: A Comparison of Refrigerated and Frozen Storage. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2015. 63(3): p. 951-956.

[8.]  USDA, USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Legacy Release April, 2018. 2018, US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory.

[9.] Hotz, C. and R.S. Gibson, Traditional Food-Processing and Preparation Practices to Enhance the Bioavailability of Micronutrients in Plant-Based Diets. The Journal of Nutrition, 2007. 137(4): p. 1097-1100.

[10.] Ramírez-Anaya, J.d.P., et al., Phenols and the antioxidant capacity of Mediterranean vegetables prepared with extra virgin olive oil using different domestic cooking techniques. Food Chemistry, 2015. 188: p. 430-438.

[11.] Platel, K. and K. Srinivasan, Bioavailability of micronutrients from plant foods: an update. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 2016. 56(10): p. 1608-1619.

[12.] Teucher, B., M. Olivares, and H. Cori, Enhancers of iron absorption: ascorbic acid and other organic acids. Int J Vitam Nutr Res, 2004. 74(6): p. 403-19.

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