3 Cooking Rules for Maintaining Nutritional Value in Vegetables

Braising Basics

You may be eating plenty of vegetables throughout your day, but if you are cooking them, you may be destroying their vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, the cooking process can break down, destroy, or leech out the nutrients in your vegetables.
The good news is that there are methods that help maintain the nutritional value in your veggies. All of those methods follow three cooking rules:
  • Rule #1 – Cook with less water.
  • Rule #2 – Cook at low temperatures.
  • Rule #3 – Cook quickly.
Rule #1 – Cook With Less Water
Vitamins B and C are water soluble nutrients and are the most susceptible to being leeched from vegetables when they sweat or are boiled in water. Typically, that water is then washed down the drain. So, not only are you losing the vitamins in your vegetables, you’re then throwing those vitamins away.
Rule #2 – Cook At Low Temperatures
Water and heat are the two biggest culprits of vitamin destruction. Cooking at a lower temperature helps keep the heat factor at bay, but also be sure to follow the “less water” rule as well.
Rule #3 – Cook Quickly
If you cannot cook at a low temperature, opt for a shorter cooking time. The longer vegetables are heated, the more destruction is caused to their nutritional makeup and the more they tend to sweat, or cause steam.
6 Better Cooking Methods
  • Refrigerate
  • Steam
  • Microwave
  • Reuse
  • Pressure Cook
  • Crock Pot
Method #1 – Refrigerate
Vegetables have natural enzymes that both synthesize and degrade vitamins. When vegetables are harvested, the synthesis stops, but the degradation continues. In order to slow down the degrading process, keep the veggies cold in the refrigerator. There are also some vitamins that are easily destroyed by oxygen. So putting cut or juiced vegetables in airtight containers and storing them in the refrigerator is of utmost importance.
Method #2 – Steam
Boiling vegetables breaks the “cook with less water” rule. Alternatively, steaming vegetables allows cooking at a lower temperature and also retains any water created through the steaming process.
Method #3 – Microwave
Essentially, using a microwave is another method of steaming. Just be sure that you are not using too much water. If you are steaming broccoli or cauliflower, for instance, two to three tablespoons are water is plenty, because the vegetables will create their own liquid.
Method #4 – Reuse
Whenever the vegetables you are cooking create liquid, retain that cooking liquid and use it for something else, like to cook rice or make stocks. That way you are not throwing all of those vitamins down the drain, but are instead utilizing them some place else.
Method #5 – Pressure Cook
Pressure cooking is a great method of preparing vegetables because it allows you to cook very quickly (usually about two or three minutes) and also retain all liquids. Pressure cooking can also be great for one-pot meals where you prepare your meat and vegetables in the same vessel.
Method #6 – Crock Pot
The crock pot is another great one-pot meal preparation tool. The other great thing about crock pots is that you can cook vegetables at a low temperature with little to no water. Cooking the vegetables in their skin is the best way to use the crock pot. For instance, a potato, cooked in its skin, at a low temperature helps preserve as many vitamins and minerals as possible.
As long as you have fresh vegetables and you are following the three cooking rules – less water, less heat, less time – you can be sure that you are getting all the necessary nutrients from your vegetables.
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