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How Cooking Affects Nutrients

Don’t pour all the vitamins down the drain. Find out how to keep more nutrients in your food.

By
Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N
3-minute read
Episode #22

Worst: Cook foods for a long time and throw away the cooking liquid.

Better: Boil or stew foods but incorporate the cooking fluid into the dish (or use it in another dish).

Good: Steam foods, which minimizes contact with water or microwave them, which minimizes the cooking time.

Best: Don’t cook them at all. I’m not saying you should never cook anything. But at least some of the fruits and vegetables you eat each day should ideally be eaten raw.

But wait: there’s a catch! Raw foods aren’t necessarily the most nutritious choice. Why? Because exposure to light and air also degrades nutrients. Raw fruits and vegetables that have been sitting in your fridge forever, or have been shipped long distances so you can enjoy strawberries in January out there in Montana, are already a shadow of their former nutritional selves.

To get the most nutrition from your fruits and vegetables—regardless of how you are going to cook them—you want to be sure you are buying the freshest possible produce. Generally, that means buying what’s local and in season. And when nothing is in season, don’t forget about frozen fruits and vegetables. Freezing is very kind to nutrients—and frozen fruits and vegetables are usually picked at their nutritional peak and processed within days, locking in those nutrients.

If you have a nutrition question for me, send an email to nutrition@quickanddirtytips.com. You can also leave messages and questions for me on my Nutrition Diva page on Facebook or Twitter. I answer a lot of listener questions in my weekly newsletter so be sure to subscribe to that, as well.

Have a great day and eat something good for me!

Resources

Nutritional Effects of Food Processing (An overview on NutritionData.com)

Table of Nutrient Retention Factors (Excruciating Detail from USDA)

Subscribe to the Nutrition Diva newsletter

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About the Author

Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N
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