Would it surprise you to learn that between preparation and cooking, nutrient thieves can rob foods of over half their nutrients? Pretty surprising, isn’t it? The culprits of this thievery are water, air, light, heat and pH levels. So, what can you do to keep these nutrient robbers at bay? When preparing food, take the following steps to preserve nutrients as much as possible.
Culprit 1: Water
When food is soaked in water, water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C, thiamine, and folate can leach into water. To combat this:
- Use as small amount of water as possible.
- Use leftover cooking liquid in soup or in another product.
- Steam in small batches for best quality.
Culprit 2: Air
Some vitamins such as antioxidants are affected by exposure to air.
- Serve raw when possible, such as fruits and vegetables.
- Prepare food as close to serving time as possible.
- Cut and cook in pieces that are as large as possible.
- Store food with proper covers.
Culprit 3: Light
Nutrients such as riboflavin and vitamin A in milk can be lost by exposure to light.
- Use a light-obstructing container, such as opaque plastic or cardboard.
- Store away from light
Culprit 4: Heat
Heating food causes nutrient loss, especially vitamin C, thiamine and folate.
- Avoid prolonged overcooking. Cook until “just tender”.
- Avoid holding cooked foods at prolonged temperatures. Cook in small batches. Over holding is huge problem. Some Nursing homes keep the soup plugged in from before lunch until after dinner…… not cooking, just holding.
Culprit 5: pH Balance
Too much acid (lemon juice) or base (soda) can break down nutrients sensitive to pH levels.
- Put lemon juice on food just before serving to flavor the dish.
These are many of the considerations that help the food you serve to your diners retain its nutritional value. Do you have any other ideas to add? Let us know in the comments.