Preparing Veggies To Gain The Most Nutritional Benefits
Approximately 290 million Americans are not eating their greens, meaning they are missing out on vital vitamins and nutrients. A simple broccoli dish is packed with Vitamin C and Vitamin K, as well as potassium and fiber, showing how important it is to include some vegetables in your main meal. How you prepare your veg, however, can have an impact on how much of these nutrients actually make it into your meal. Have a look at some of the ways changing preparation methods can help you obtain more of those vital vitamins.
Shredding Versus Cutting
Studies have shown that ‘wounding’ vegetables, such as cabbage, celery or carrots, increases the antioxidant content. Compounds called phenols are produced when veggies are cut, and these have antioxidant properties that are thought to prevent cell damage. Cutting vegetables will release more of these, but shredding or grating will release more still. Cabbage can be easily shredded using a chef’s knife. Pre-packed shredded veg often loses its flavor and freshness. Additionally, carrots can be shredded using a cheese grater. Shredded or grated veg can be used to make soups or curries, or can be added raw in salads in order for you to gain the full benefits.
Chopping And Storing
Enzymatic browning is a process that can happen to onions, eggplant, cauliflowers and lettuce. It happens when fruit and veg is cut, exposing the insides to the oxygen in the air. Unfortunately, Vitamin C is lost during this process, as is some Vitamin A and E. To reduce the browning effect, chop vegetables and store them in an airtight bag or container in the fridge. This will slow down the process but not stop it entirely. Keep as much veg intact as possible before cooking to prevent the loss of too many vitamins. Another way to prevent browning is to use a ceramic knife for chopping. Some knives contain iron or copper, which can speed up the browning process. Ensure your knife is sharp, as a duller blade can also result in lost nutrients.
The Cooking Process
Preparation can help contain most of the nutrients, but what happens when you start to cook them? Raw vegetables are often thought to be healthier than cooked, but this depends on how they are cooked. A study has shown that cooking actually boosts the amount of carotenoids and ferulic acid in carrots, spinach and mushrooms, among other vegetables. These nutrients are potent antioxidants. The best method for cooking is to boil or steam. To prevent loss of nutrients to the water, add just enough to cover, and do not over-boil. If frying, cook on a low heat to preserve antioxidants and vitamins. If you have the time, cooking whole can keep the nutrients intact, and the veg can be prepped and chopped afterwards.
Learning simple meal prep can help you to receive the maximum benefits from the vegetables you eat. It will both improve the flavor and increase the amount of nutrients you receive from each delicious meal, making for a more fulfilling, healthy diet.