Are you getting the best from your vegetables?

by Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Posted on Sep 22, 11:04 PM in . No comments.

Wok cooking

You’re eating all your vegetables and you’re sitting pretty, right?
Can you be sure you are getting the best out of them? Sadly, fruit and vegetables can start to lose their vitamin content as soon as they are picked. The longer they are hanging about on the shelves and in the refrigerator, the more losses occur. And then there is the cooking. In fact, you can lose your vitamins from fruits and vegetables at every stage before you eat them. The degree of vitamin losses in your vegetables is affected by variety, way of cutting and preparation and method and duration of cooking. The longer a food is exposed to heat, the greater the nutrient loss.

“Fragile nutrients”

Some vitamins are more “fragile” than others. Vitamin C is lost through exposure to heat and air. Water soluble vitamins such as thiamine (B1), folic acid and vitamin C are lost in the water when cooking. Other vitamins such as riboflavin (B2) are destroyed by light as well as being lost in cooking water. Adding bicarbonate of soda to a boiling pot can destroy even more of the vitamin content.
There are ways you can prevent the vitamin losses in your fruit and vegetables, particularly, to make sure you are getting the best value from them.

Try these: Tips to keep the Vitamins in your Veg.

  • Grow your own. Using fresh foods as soon as possible after picking is the ideal.
  • If that isn’t an option, use as soon as possible after purchase and shop regularly for fresh vegetables rather than stockpiling after the big weekly shop.
  • Frozen vegetables retain their vitamins well but don’t thaw them before cooking.
  • Serve vegetables as soon as they are cooked. The longer they are sitting being warmed up, the more vitamins they will lose.
  • Keep them cool, in the crisper part of your fridge. Keep in airtight or moisture proof containers.
  • Try not to buy pre cut packs of vegetables and avoid cutting and trimming into small pieces. The greater surface area allows quicker breakdown of nutrients. Try to leave cutting up into smaller pieces until the last minute, when you need to cook them or add to salads.
  • Cook vegetables with the skin on. (Wash and scrub first of course). Root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes) cooked in their skins, can retain about 65 % of their vitamin C.
  • Leave the outer leaves of cauliflower, lettuce and cabbage on for as long as possible. Think of the outer leaves as armour.
  • Don’t soak your vegetables prior to cooking, as this will allow many vitamins to dissolve in the water.
  • Rather than boiling in an open pan of water, microwave, steam, or wok cook vegetables using very small amounts of water. Lid on is best. Cook for as short a time as possible. Yes, crispy vegetables are better.
  • If you must boil, use as little water as you can get away with and use the cooking liquid from vegetables for gravy, sauces, soups, or for cooking rice or pasta. You could even try drinking the vege water.
  • Don’t use bicarbonate of soda when cooking vegetables.
  • Minimise reheating of vegetables.

Just a few small changes could mean you are getting better value from your vegetables. Worth a try I’d say.

About the author

Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Anne is a Health Professions Council (HPC) registered dietitian (RD), an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD- Australia), a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), a member of the British Dietetic Association, The Nutrition Society and of The Dietetics Association of Australia.

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