Eating vegetables and fruits are great ways to get essential nutrients our bodies need to thrive. However, there are many factors that decrease the nutrients that are found in foods. The nutrient value of food is almost always altered by the kind of processing it undergoes. Fortunately, there are also steps we can take to get the most nutrients out of the foods we eat.
How Do We Lose Nutrients?
There are many things that can happen during growing, harvesting, storing, and preparing food that can affect the nutritional value. Nearly every food preparation process reduces the amount of nutrients in food. In particular, processes that expose foods to high levels of heat, light, and/or oxygen cause the greatest nutrient loss.
Water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C & B are the most vulnerable to processing and cooking which is why it is recommended to wash these foods thoroughly and eat them raw to get the most nutrients.
Fat-soluble vitamins K, A, D & E are more stable and lose the fewest nutrients when cooked. It is important to remember, the longer food is stored in the refrigerator, freezer or cupboard, the greater the nutrient loss. Eat fresh produce as soon as you can.
How Can I Get The Most Nutrients?
Eating locally grown fruits and veggies maximizes the vitamins and minerals you get from your produce. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often “flash frozen” either right on the farm or nearby, which can preserves precious vitamins and minerals. If you cannot eat fresh produce often, frozen produce may be more nutritious than the fresh food you buy.
Try to include both raw and cooked produce in your meals and snacks to get the most nutrients. Cooking methods that minimize the time, temperature, and amount of water needed will help to preserve nutrients. The way you choose to store and prepare foods makes all the difference.
Here are more steps you can take to save nutrients.
• Eat produce closer to harvest time.
• Cut vegetables into larger chunks.
• Leave produce unwashed with the skin or rinds intact until the day you plan to eat them.
• Microwave, steam, roast or grill vegetables rather than boiling them.
• Use fresh ingredients whenever possible.
• Keep vegetables in the coldest section of the refrigerator.
Remember to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables each day regardless if they are cooked or raw. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to significantly increase your nutrient intake. Buying healthy foods is a good start, preparing them properly maximizes the nutrients you get!