Besides knowing how to buy vegetables, you should know how to prepare them before cooking. You should know how you should wash the veggies, how to cut them and how to store them. You should also adopt some broad tips for cooking.
These methods explained here will help to preserve the maximum nutrients, which are otherwise lost with wrong methods that are generally being used.
The right ways in dealing with the vegetables before cooking and during cooking contribute towards preserving the nutrients in them so that we are able to get the maximum health benefits from them.
Vegetables are power-packed with vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and antioxidants. Some of them are water-soluble while others are fat-soluble. In order that you do not lose these nutrients, you should know the proper pre-cooking steps.
You could eat some vegetables raw while some need to be cooked. It is your choice what you prefer most but the fact remains that vegetables need to be a generous part of your diet.
How to store the vegetables?
It is always best to eat vegetables fresh because they give you more nutrients than old ones. But, when you have to store, preserve the uncut and unwashed vegetables in a refrigerator because the synthesis of vitamins stops after the vegetables have been picked.
To slow down this loss of vitamins, it is advised to store the vegetables in the fridge. If you keep the vegetables in a plastic bag, keep the bag open or make holes in it to allow the flow of the circulating air and keep them loosely packed. However, you should store the cut vegetables in an airtight container.
The amount of nutrient loss depends on the storage temperature and the duration of time the food remains exposed to the air.
How should you wash the vegetables?
According to the U. S. health officials’ estimate, about 48 million people fall sick each year due to the consumption of food contaminated with harmful germs.
Before cooking your vegetables, you should rinse your vegetables in order to get rid of the pesticides, tiny insects and bacteria. Prior to that, you should wash your hands well with soap and water.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that all vegetables and fruits be thoroughly washed before consumption to avoid contamination and infection by bacteria.
Washing also helps to get rid of the remnants of pesticides. Ideally, rinse the vegetables under clean tap water instead of soaking them.
If you have to soak them after rinsing, do not soak your vegetables for more than two minutes as that will get rid of valuable water-soluble vitamins like Vitamin B and C.
However, vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli may require a longer time to wash because of multiple crevices to clean. You can effectively clean other vegetables under clean running tap water and most may not require soaking.
You could use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.
The idea is to preserve the water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B-complex, water-soluble minerals like calcium, iron and magnesium and water-soluble electrolytes like sodium and potassium that are present in the vegetables.
How should you cut the vegetables?
Use a clean cutting board and knife. To preserve the nutrients in the vegetables, cut them in large pieces instead of small ones or where possible eat them whole. An example would be to eat a whole baked potato instead of mashed one.
Always cut the vegetables after you have washed them to prevent nutrient loss. It is through the cut surfaces that loss of nutrients occurs. Cutting a vegetable breaks its cell walls, allowing nutrients to escape into the water. Cutting larger pieces means you cut fewer cell walls leading to lesser loss of nutrients.
Where possible, preserve the peel as most of the nutrients are below the peel.
Broad cooking tips to retain nutrients in the veggies
Nutrients are lost from the vegetables on exposure to light and air. Therefore, you should cook your vegetables soon after cutting them to minimize exposure to light and air. Follow these tips:
- Use as little water as possible.
- Keep the temperature as low as possible.
- Keep the cooking time to the minimum.