You make a concerted effort to buy healthy groceries and plan nutritious meals. So it only makes sense to do all you can to lock in the nutrients of the foods you eat. Cooking can zap away valuable vitamins–and in some cases, even create potentially harmful compounds. Here are some tips for getting maximum nutrition from your meals:
Prep the right way: Boiling fruits and veggies for long periods of time can deplete the nutrient content as vitamins are leached into the water. Instead, use quick cooking methods like lightly steaming or roasting only until tender-crisp. Though it’s not speedy, using a slow cooker means you’re cooking at a lower temperature than boiling, which may help reduce nutrient losses. Another advantage of slow cooking: When you’re cooking meat, you reduce the amount of potentially harmful compounds that can arise when meats are prepared other ways like frying and grilling.
Don’t discount cooked: Some vitamin losses occur during cooking, especially heat-sensitive vitamin C and folate. But cooked fruits and veggies still have loads of benefits. In fact, certain health-boosting nutrients actually get more potent during the cooking process. For instance, the disease-fighting antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes increases during cooking. Ditto for valuable antioxidants in asparagus and eggplant.
Serve both kinds: Including both raw and cooked produce in your meals and snacks means you’re more likely to nab the most nutrients. Some ideas: Add raw cabbage slaw to pork sandwiches, serve green salads alongside vegetable soup, or put a bowl of fresh fruit on the table with dinner.
And remember that no matter how you serve them–cooked or raw–the more fruits and vegetables you and your family eat, the better!