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Why these methods of cooking are best when you want to retain nutrients

Learn all about healthy cooking methods

Man with apron in industrial kitchen
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Cooking with a variety of methods can not only save you time in the kitchen but also maximize the nutrient content of your food. The way you cook and prepare food has a significant impact on its nutritional value.

Let’s explore a few healthy cooking methods that will help you reach your macros. 

Does cooking vegetables remove nutrients?

Steak and vegetables on grill
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While cooking can enhance digestion and increase the absorption of certain nutrients, it can also lead to the reduction of key vitamins, minerals, and other important compounds. This holds true for vegetables as well.

Different cooking methods can affect the nutrient content of food in various ways. There are several tips you can follow to minimize nutrient loss while cooking vegetables. 

  • Vegetables should not be peeled before cooking to maximize fiber and nutrient density
  • Make sure to use the least amount of water as possible when poaching or boiling vegetables. Excessive water can cause water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C to leach out.
  • Smaller amounts of water should be used when cooking vegetables. This is especially important when dealing with water-soluble vitamins like vitamins C and B.
  • Whenever possible, cook vegetables for only a few minutes to minimize the loss of nutrients. Overcooking vegetables can significantly reduce their nutritional value.
  • Ideally, cooked vegetables should be consumed within a day or two of cooking in order to retain their vitamin content. The longer cooked vegetables are exposed to air, the more the vitamin content will diminish.

Different cooking methods and their effects on nutrient content

Steak with vegetables
Malidate Van / Pexels

Grilling

There are many benefits to grilling, such as the great flavor and charred edges. However, it is important to keep in mind that some nutrients can be lost during the grilling process. 

In addition to leaking nutrient-rich juices, grilling also increases the potential for cancer-causing substances to form when hot surfaces come in contact with the fat drops from the grill. To reduce this risk, it is recommended to remove drippings and minimize smoke. 

When lean meats, like chicken, are used and excess fat is removed before grilling, it is still possible to prepare a healthy meal on the grill. 

Boiling

While boiling is a common cooking method, it can cause food to lose certain nutrients, such as water-soluble vitamins. 

Vegetables, in particular, are susceptible to nutrient loss during boiling. Vitamin C, an important water-soluble vitamin, is especially vulnerable to heat and can leach out of vegetables when boiled. 

To combat this, you can consider alternative cooking methods like steaming, which has been found to preserve more nutrients, including water-soluble vitamins

Baking

While baking is generally considered a gentle cooking method that preserves nutrients, it can still cause some nutrient loss. The heat and prolonged cooking time can lead to the breakdown of certain vitamins and minerals. 

Choose the right cooking temperature during baking to minimize nutrient loss. Lower temperatures can help reduce the breakdown of nutrients. 

Blanching

When food is blanched, it is briefly immersed in boiling water and then quickly cooled. The process helps retain some nutrients and color while maintaining texture and flavor. 

Blanching can result in a slight loss of water-soluble vitamins, but the impact on overall nutrients is minimal. Blanching is particularly beneficial for green vegetables like spinach and broccoli. 

Foods with a high water content or that are delicate should not be blanched, as they may become mushy.

Microwave cooking

Due to its short cooking time and reduced exposure to heat, microwave cooking is regarded for its ability to retain most nutrients. While some nutrient loss may still occur during microwave cooking, it is generally lower compared to other cooking methods.

In order to preserve the nutrients in your food while microwaving, it is important to use microwave-safe containers and cover your food to trap in steam.

Sous vide 

This cooking method involves vacuum-sealing food in a bag and cooking it in a controlled water bath at a consistently low temperature for an extended period. 

By cooking food in a sealed bag, the flavors and juices are locked in, resulting in enhanced taste and texture. 

The benefits of sous vide cooking include precise temperature control, and ensuring that food is cooked evenly and to the desired degree of doneness. In addition, sous vide cooking preserves the nutrients contained in food. 

Change up your routine and experiment with these cooking methods. Your micronutrient intake may increase as well!

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Brittney Bertagna, RN
Brittney is a graduate of California State University, Chico, where she completed a Bachelor's degree in Business. Her…
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