How to preserve nutrients in food: some practical tips

Get the most out of your food by choosing preparation and storage methods that preserve their vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

Fresh is best, frozen is next

Fresh, ripe seasonal produce tends to be nutritious—but fruit and veg are needed year-round, even in the dead of winter. The US Department of Agriculture states that freezing produce immediately after harvest preserves 95% to 100% of most vitamins and minerals, with the exception of vitamin C, which decreases by up to 30 percent in frozen produce. Keep a variety of fruits and vegetables in your freezer so they are always available.

Reduce cooking times for vegetables

The longer food is exposed to heat, the more nutrients are lost. To reduce cooking time, cover the pot to retain heat and prevent evaporation, place veggies in already boiling water, and enjoy veggies with a crispier texture.

Keep the can handy

Canned fruits and vegetables that contain little or no sodium or added sugars are easy and convenient; a varied stockpiling guarantees you immediate access to important nutrients.

Be watery

USDA data shows that up to 50% of the vitamin C, thiamine, vitamin B6 and folic acid content of foods can be lost through the water in which they are cooked. To preserve water-soluble nutrients, use cooking methods such as steaming or frying Use little or no water, reduce the amount of water used in steaming and boiling, and reuse cooking water in soups or sauces to capture lost nutrients.

Don’t leave out the shell

Keeping skins on foods like potatoes, carrots, apples, and pears preserves more nutrients, which tend to concentrate near the surface. Instead of peeling, opt to use a good vegetable washer.

Chop less

Chopping food into smaller pieces increases the surface area exposed to light, heat and water – three factors that degrade nutrients. An exception is garlic and others in the leek family; If you chop these foods and leave them for 10 minutes before cooking, the availability of their active components will increase.

Get the most out of your microwave

Because cooking time and water consumption are reduced, the microwave is a nutrient-friendly appliance. The microwave preserves higher antioxidant activity in most vegetables compared to other cooking methods. Choose glass or ceramic dishes for use in the microwave; Harmful chemicals can get into your food from plastic, and some plastics actually start to break down during the microwave.

stay cool

The nutrient levels in many fruits and vegetables can be maintained with cooler temperatures, higher humidity, and less exposure to air. Store food in airtight containers in the refrigerator.

Use everything

Many vegetables are fully edible and rich in nutrients, so using the entire plant from root to stem is a safe way to add nutrients to your day. Or toss leftover veggies in a pot of water and make your own flavorful stock that can be stored in the freezer and used as a base for soups, stews and sauces.

Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts and dedicated to providing readers with up-to-date and accurate information on health and nutrition.

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