Once picked, raw vegetables begin to lose nutrients. There are several easy ways to get the most nutrients from your vegetables.
- Store vegetables in the refrigerator and only purchase the amount you can use in a few days.
- Buy your produce as fresh as possible to make sure you’re starting out with the highest possible level of vitamins.
- Try produce that is local and in season to obtain the most nutrients.
You also want to be aware of how various cooking methods affect the nutrients in vegetables.
Cooking vegetables can make the cell walls less rigid, which makes it easier to absorb certain nutrients and digest food better. For example, cooked carrots have more beta carotene, an antioxidant that can be converted to vitamin A and can improve bone, eye and reproductive health. Cooking tomatoes increases the amount of lycopene, a caroteniod that has been associated with reduced incidence of heart disease and cancer.
Boiling and cooking vegetables in high temperatures or in water can also decrease their nutrient level. Water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B vitamins are often lost during these cooking methods. Minerals like potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc may be reduced by up to 60-70%.
Choosing cooking methods that reduce the time that vegetables are exposed to heat can reduce nutrient loss. Steaming and microwaving your produce helps reduce cooking time.
Regardless of how you prepare vegetables, they are full of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that can help maintain good health. There are benefits and disadvantages to cooking your vegetables, so prepare them the way you like, so that you are more likely to eat more of them.