Ace Dietician Madhuri Ruia answers top 10 FAQs on how to preserve nutritional value while cooking.
Is mineral water safe to use while cooking. Does it cause any harm to the nutritional value of food?
- Mineral water is entirely safe for cooking. Mineral water on its own cannot destroy the nutritional value of foods.
- Nutritional value of foods can be destroyed only if food is cooked at an enormously high temperature for a long duration or if the food is cooked in large volumes of water.
Does microwave cooking destroy nutrients in food?
Microwave cooking does not destroy nutrients if used diligently i.e. for a short period of time with medium heat.
Nutrients can be destroyed with any form of cooking if cooked for a long time and with a large volume of liquid at a very high cooking temperature. For instance, if a cup of vegetables are cooked in as much as a cup of water for more than 10 minutes at high heat, the water soluble vitamins like vitamin B group and vitamin C, which are the most heat-sensitive nutrients, will be destroyed. But if the same quantity of vegetables is cooked in the microwave using 3-4 tablespoons of water for 3 minutes on medium heat, most nutrients will be retained.
Microwaving is known to render vitamin B 12 inactive in the human body, but the folate in spinach and other leafy greens is preserved much more with microwaving than it is with conventional cooking methods, where 77% of the nutrients are destroyed.
How much water is too much while cooking?
This quantity varies according to the foods that are being cooked. For instance, for vegetables a tablespoon per 100 grams is a good rule of thumb.
- Do not immerse vegetables in water.
- Keep the vegetables crunchy cooked.
- For dals (lentils), rajmah (legumes) and meats more water is required for it to be completely cooked.
What kind of food preparation methods retains nutritional value of food?
Stir-frying and steaming are the best ways to cook and retain nutritional values of foods.
- To stir fry, food is cut into small pieces and cooked on high heat very quickly with a small quantity of oil. This helps vitamin rich veggies like broccoli, carrots, beans and cauliflower to retain nutrients, texture, flavour and taste.
- Steaming foods also retains nutrients and flavour. The good thing about steaming is that it requires no oil at all.
How can one deactivate destructive enzymes in food while cooking?
By cooking food in a preheated pan or placing it in boiling water you can easily terminate destructive enzymes in food.
Many people use baking soda to preserve green colour of the veggies. Does it offer any good to the nutritional value of food?
No, in fact baking soda leaches vitamin B out of the food especially the vegetables that are being cooked.
Why is it that deep-frying, barbecuing or pressure cooking destroy nutrition that foods offer?
Deep frying uses high heat and the oil reaches smoking point. Very high heat that is used in barbecuing and grilling can destroy the nutritional value of foods and denature proteins in meats and eggs. Charred or burnt meat can be carcinogenic and harmful when consumed frequently. Too much water that is used in pressure cooking can also destroy the delicate vitamins and antioxidants that are present in certain foods.
Does one destroy the nutrients present in food by chopping them finely and by leaving it to simmer in water? If yes, why is it so?
Yes fine chopping of food can destroy nutrients because then a larger surface area is exposed to heat over a longer duration. It also oxidizes a larger surface area.
Could you name a few food items that maintain antioxidant level with all kinds of cooking?
- High fiber foods like oats and legumes like rajmah and chana are hardy and take well to most cooking methods with the exception of deep frying.
- The lycopene in tomatoes and carrots is in fact better absorbed when these are cooked.
The most heat sensitive vitamins are vitamin B and C. Even the antioxidants in cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens are also fragile. So, what is the best way to cook them?
Antioxidants and the heat sensitive vitamins B and C need minimum exposure to air, light and heat in order to avoid destruction.
The best way to cook these vegetables is
- Chop and cook immediately. Chopping increases surface area and exposure to air and light
- Heat through very quickly and preferably only in 2-3 tablespoons of water for approximately 3-5 minutes only.
- Turn off heat and cover with pan for another 5 minutes and let the veggie cook in its own heat.
- To prevent further heating, transfer to another serving dish of room temperature immediately.
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