Who doesn't love the aroma of food cooking on the grill on a warm summer night? Or how about that little boost you get when you reach for your favorite, well-seasoned cast-iron skillet? But did you know that certain cooking methods and pots and pans can actually diminish the nutrients you get from those meals you so painstakingly prepare?
In today's busy world, those of us who take the time to shop for fresh ingredients and then cook well-balanced healthy meals want to ensure we're getting the biggest nutrient bang for our efforts. With a little bit of knowledge about the cooking methods and utensils that maximize nutrient retention, you and your clients can do just that!
"Preparing food at home provides control over what we--and our family--are eating," says Pat Baird, MA, RD, a nutrition consultant and author in Greenwich, Connecticut. Experienced cooks use certain techniques to greatly influence the taste, texture, aroma, color, safety and nutrient value of food. This process starts with knowing the best food preparation and storage methods.
When foods are cut, the area scored is similar to a wound: This is where the most nutrients leach out or bleed from! That's why it is advisable to leave foods whole or in the largest pieces possible. Iris also why you should always turn food--especially meats and poultry--with tongs or a spatula rather than a fork during cooking. This way you avoid piercing the food and releasing its nutritious juices. Whenever possible, cook fruits and vegetables with their skins intact; these skins act as a protective coating, which helps retain nutrients.
Time is also a nutrient killer. The longer foods are stored, the more the nutrients break down. Cook foods as soon after purchase as possible and eat any leftovers within a few days. Safety is also an issue here; to prevent bacterial growth, food should always be kept at below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (CF) and cooked at above 140[degrees]F.
As a rule, rapid cooking techniques are better for retaining nutrients than slower methods. In fact, spending the least amount of time cooking is the way to go! Any type of cooking changes food in some ways. In general, nutrients are lost when food is exposed to heat, light, moisture and air (Robertson 1986). The longer food is exposed to these factors, the greater the nutrient loss. To retain the most nutrients possible, most experts recommend that you cook food thoroughly but rapidly.
The methods that typically preserve nutrients best can be ordered from quickest to slowest, as follows:
* pressure cooking
The nutrient retention achieved through these methods may vary according to the food type, size and shape and your own cooking technique. Note that boiling is nor a preferred cooking method because it does the most nutrient damage (Robertson 1986). This is especially true when foods are boiled in too much water, which is then poured down the drain (along with the...
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