Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cooking vegetables properly to get the maximum nutritive value on your table!

Cooking vegetables properly to get the maximum nutritive value on your table!

We've all heard so much about eating those 5-9 servings of produce each day. Smart physicians have been promoting this for decades, but it's only been in the last few years that the government has made this healthy recommendation official. Many of us gasped at the idea, wondering if it were even possible to consume so much produce and have any room left over for anything else!

Now, we're getting used to increasing the amounts we serve and have become more aware of the many health benefits. With the rise in the incidence of cancer and heart disease, it only makes sense. Much of the fruit and fruit products we eat are eaten fresh, or as juice. In the case of vegetables, the reverse is true. Most of our vegetables are cooked before serving. The method used for cooking vegetables makes a world of difference in the nutrition derived from that serving of broccoli, carrots or potatoes – or any vegetable you cook.

The dark green, leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach and kale contain significant amounts of B and C vitamins, as well as many other valuable nutrients. The brightly colored veggies, such as yellow, orange and red bell peppers, yield those cancer fighting antioxidants in copious amounts. However, there's a caveat when it comes to cooking vegetables – those valuable nutrients are largely water soluble. This means that cooking vegetables in large amounts of boiling water leaves the nutrients in the water, leaving as little as 10% of that contained in the raw produce! You can see where this leads: improperly cooking vegetables is little more than an exercise in futility. Your body obtains little more than the dietary fiber and minimal quantities of the nutritive value.

Remember, too, that heat destroys vitamins A and C rather quickly, so it's important to minimize exposure to heat.

Even when serving raw vegetables, as in a salad or crudites, you don't want to soak the vegetables in water to clean them. A thorough, but brief run under the water helps prevent leaching of vitamins, delivering the maximum nutrition when eaten.

Have you ever noticed the difference in appearance between, say, an artichoke or broccoli that's been steamed versus one that's been boiled? The boiled version is certainly less attractive, having lost most of its color, turning an olive-gray green, whereas the same veggie, steamed, retains an appetizing, bright green hue. Boiled vegetables also tend to be limp and overly soft – one reason kids are so often turned off by that plate of veggies – the texture is not pleasurable to the palate. Steamed vegetables retain just the right amount of crunch. When you're cooking vegetables, steaming is definitely the preferred method for nutrition as well as visual and sensate appeal.

Cooking vegetables in the microwave is the next best alternative, as it requires little water and cooks quickly, minimizing the loss of valuable vitamins. The less water touching the vegetables, the better.

When cooking stews and soups, most recipes direct you to cook the veggies far longer than necessary, which usually causes a loss in texture, appearance and color. This also results in the destruction of the A and C vitamins. It's best to steam or nuke the veggies separately, adding to the soup or stew at the last minute.

Hey, this makes me wonder if the official number of servings doesn't factor in improperly cooking vegetables. If so, cooking them right and eating those 5-9 servings could make you a very healthy individual indeed!

1 comment:

  1. If you want to double your yield on all plants us


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