It is extremely important to eat a variety of vegetables, that comes loaded with numerous nutrients, to ensure good health. “High vegetable intake has been linked to a decreased risk of hypertension, heart attacks, strokes, cataracts, macular degeneration, cognitive decline, and malignancies of the digestive system,” said Neha Pathania, Senior Dietitian, Paras Hospitals. The expert add that vegetables are also believed to help reduce inflammation, fend off dangerous free radicals, and strengthen immunity because of their protective combination of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytochemicals.
But it is not just about eating veggies, the way they are cooked also plays a role in ensuring their nutritional value is not hampered. “Yes; however, while all cooking techniques change the nutritional makeup of vegetables, some actually increase nutrient content while others destroy certain components,” the dietitian told indianexpress.com.
Neha informed that the most unstable nutrients when it comes to cooking, are vitamins C and B. “As these vitamins are water soluble, they get leaked into the cooking water. Also, if you boil or microwave your veggies with an excessive amount of water, you will have less thiamine, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and significantly less vitamin C,” she added.
As such, “when it comes to nutritional losses while cooking, water is the biggest enemy,” she said, adding that “steaming is, hence, one of the finest ways to protect nutrients.” “Boiling destroys more nutrients than dry cooking techniques including grilling, roasting, and stir-frying. Save the nutrient-rich cooking water from boiling your veggies to use in sauces and soups,” suggested Neha.
Sharing some of the ideal ways to cook food, Dr Nidhi Chaudhary, another nutritionist, took to Instagram and wrote: “Longer exposure to heat, light, and water may drain out vitamins, minerals and plant compounds from the food. A few ideal ways of cooking are using less water, pressure cooking, steaming, stir-frying, and microwaving.”
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Dr Nidhi also suggested the following ways to retain more nutrients while cooking:
*Wash the vegetables and fruits before cutting. Chopping veggies first and then washing them drains nutrients from them.
*Do not cut vegetables into very small pieces as most of the essential nutrients will get destroyed in the process. The perfect way is to cut vegetables into larger chunks. Also, it is suggested to cook veggies soon after cutting as exposure to light and air may decrease the amount of nutrition.
*Cook vegetables in a very little amount of water. Cooking in excess water depletes the nutrients; ideally, vegetables should be covered with a lid and cooked on low flame. “Do not discard excess water after boiling rice or vegetables. The water is a rich source of various vitamins and minerals and it can be used in making gravies, soup, or kneading dough,” Dr Nidhi suggested.
*Avoid reheating cooked food as it destroys the natural properties of vitamins and minerals. Try eating within 4 hours of cooking as this helps in reducing further loss of nutrients.
*Never use baking soda while cooking vegetables. “Though it helps in retaining the colour of vegetables as well as speeds up the cooking process, adding baking soda releases carbon dioxide that can cause nutritional deficiency,” said Dr Nidhi.