How to preserve vitamins when cooking

How much nutrition from food is lost when cooking by microwave? How does this cooking method compare to pressure cooking with steam - in terms of nutritive value? Which is the best method for cooking - which one retains the maximum nutrition?

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dear Vandhana,

How foods are cooked can have a big impact on its nutrient content. That's because many of its vitamins are sensitive to heat, and air exposure (in particular - vitamin C, the B vitamins and folate.) And, the longer the time and the higher the temperature, the worse it becomes. Then, during the cooking process, the water used for cooking can dissolve and wash away (if the cooking water is tossed out) even more of those vitamins that are water soluble. Therefore, any cooking that minimizes the time, temperature, and amount of water needed will help to preserve the nutrients.

Microwave cooking is one of the best ways to preserve nutrients because it needs minimal water, and the cooking time is very short. Pressure cooking under steam is the next best method because it too minimizes time, and it requires little water. Other methods that are also good to use for the purpose of maximizing nutrient retention are steaming with little water, stir frying, or boil in bag.

Because microwaving and pressure cooking are both good ways to hold in nutrients, I suggest you go ahead and use the method you prefer.

There are a few other tricks you can employ to preserve nutrients. Minimize the surface area of the food you are to cook so that fewer vitamins are exposed to air where they will be destroyed. That means cutting vegetables into bigger pieces. Always cover your pot to hold in steam and thus heat, which will help to reduce cooking time. Use any leftover cooking water for soups, sauces, and stews, or vegetable juice drinks. Eat fruits and vegetables raw whenever possible, or cook until just crisp tender. Use as little water as possible when cooking.

The best way to destroy vitamins is to cook your fruits and vegetables in an open pot of boiling water. Only use that method when you're making a pot of soup and the broth and all will be eaten, and even then, put a lid on it!

Thank you for writing.

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