Although cooking improves the availability and the absorption of many nutrients in our foods, it may also decrease levels of some others.
Authority Nutrition recently looked at the available evidence on various cooking methods to determine how cooking affects the nutrient content of foods and how best to reduce nutrient loss while cooking.
It’s clear that there is no perfect method for cooking as each method has its own pros and cons. In our opinion, as long as you are utilizing a wide variety of cooking methods and not just relying on only one, you should be fine.
Here is what you need to know:
- Don’t peel vegetables until after cooking them, or better yet don’t peel them at all to maximize fibre and nutrient density.
- Use as little water as possible for poaching, boiling, or cooking vegetables so that less water-soluble vitamins leach out into the water.
- Cook vegetables for only a few minutes whenever possible as generally, the longer you cook, the more nutrients are lost.
- Don’t use baking soda when cooking vegetables. Although it helps maintain color, vitamin C will be lost in the alkaline environment produced by baking soda.
- Consume the liquid left in the pan after cooking vegetables by re-using it in soups, broths, for cooking rice, and so on to minimize nutrient loss.
- Try to finish cooked vegetables within a day or two because nutrient content like vitamin C may continue to decline when the cooked food is exposed to air.
- Cut food after rather than before cooking if possible as less of it will exposed to heat and water.
- Add back juices from meat that drip into the pan as this juice often contains a lot of things like B Vitamins.
- When cooking meat, poultry and fish, use the shortest cooking time needed for safe consumption – cooking meat at high temperatures or for a long time isn’t great.
Ultimately, there is no perfect method of cooking that retains all nutrients. Each has it’s own pros and cons, whether it’s boiling, braaing, or microwaving.
For best results, cook:
- For shorter periods of time
- At lower temperatures
- With less water
- And minimal waste of byproducts
If you are interested in looking at the research for each cooking method (boiling, simmering, poaching, grilling, broiling, microwaving, roasting, baking, sautéing, stir-frying, frying, and steaming) you can read their original article from Authority Nutrition here.