This is how to preserve vitamins in vegetables

Tuesday January 27 2015

Most vitamins, particularly water-soluble ones, are very sensitive to heat, therefore they can be easily destroyed during cooking. Photo/FILE

Most vitamins, particularly water-soluble ones, are very sensitive to heat, therefore they can be easily destroyed during cooking. Photo/FILE 

By Dr Rebecca Muthoni

YOU EAT PLENTY OF VEGETABLES, but are you getting any health benefits from them? Often, the process of preparation, cooking and storage can destroy essential vitamins from vegetables, therefore reducing their nutritional value.

Here are tips that will help retain vitamins in your vegetables.

Go for fresh:

Fresh vegetables contain more nutrients. It is advisable to buy those that are in season, not only are they cheaper, they are also fresher, since they move fast.

Storage:

Buy just enough vegetables to last you a day or two. The longer you store vegetables, the more nutrients they lose. Alternatively, you can freeze them if you do not plan to eat them soon. Freezing helps stop nutrient loss in a food.

Washing:

Wash vegetables before you cut them. This prevents the loss of water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B.

Surface exposure:

Avoid exposing vegetables to elements such as water, heat, and air, since they can destroy vitamins. Also, cut vegetables into large pieces since this helps to preserve most of the nutrients during cooking.

The smaller the pieces you cut, the greater the surface area exposed, and the more the nutrients lost. You can always cut vegetables into your preferred smaller sizes after they are cooked.

In addition, avoid vegetables that have been pre-cut. Pre-cutting exposes them to air, which depletes them of their nutrient value.

For those who buy pre-cut vegetables from vegetable vendors, chances are that most essential nutrients have already been lost.

Avoid overcooking:

Most vitamins, particularly water-soluble ones, are very sensitive to heat, therefore they can be easily destroyed during cooking.

The more intense the heat and the longer the cooking time, the more the nutrient loss. Avoid cooking vegetables to a point where they change their colour. Vegetables with vibrant colour contain more vitamins, and are tastier.

Use appropriate cooking methods:

The lesser the heat, cooking time and water, the more nutrients are retained in vegetables. Steaming and microwaving are the best methods for cooking vegetables, since they are fast, and prevent leeching out (loss of nutrients in water during cooking) of essential nutrients.

Another cooking option is to stir-fry your vegetables, since this method is also fast and low in water.

If you have to boil them, do so in water that is already boiling – this slows leeching of nutrients.

Any water used during cooking contains vitamins, therefore do not discard the water. Instead, use it to prepare stocks and soups, or add it in other foods.

Cover while cooking:

The steam generated helps speed up cooking, and at the same time, the vitamin is contained in the pot.

Eat raw vegetables: This is the best way to ensure that you get most of the nutrients in veggies, since they are in their most natural state. However, fat-soluble vitamins, that is, A, D, E and K, require some amount of oil for them to be available.