Controlling Nutrient Losses

Vegetables are an important part of our diets because they supply a wide variety of essential nutrients.They are our major sources of vitamins A and C and are rich in many other vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, many of these nutrients are easily lost. Six factors are responsible for most nutrient loss:

1. High temperature.

2. Long cooking.

3. Leaching (dissolving out).

4. Alkalis (baking soda, hard water).

5. Plant enzymes (which are active at warm temperatures but destroyed by high heat).

6. Oxygen.

Some nutrient loss is inevitable because it is rarely possible to avoid all of these conditions at the same time. For example,

• Pressure steaming shortens cooking time, but the high temperature destroys some vitamins.

• Braising uses low heat, but the cooking time is longer.

• Baking eliminates the leaching out of vitamins and minerals, but the long cooking and high temperature cause nutrient loss.

• Boiling is faster than simmering, but the higher temperature can be harmful and the rapid activity can break up delicate vegetables and increase loss through leaching.

• Cutting vegetables into small pieces decreases cooking time, but it increases leaching by creating more exposed surfaces.

• Even steaming allows some leaching out of nutrients into the moisture that condenses on the vegetables and then drips off.

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