Explain-Health.com logo




Cooking Instructions to Keep Vitamin
and Nutrient Content in Food

Author:   Peter Sedesse MD

Chemistry of Vitamins and Minerals

The first thing to understand is the difference between vitamins and minerals.  Vitamins are complex organic compounds while minerals are basic and simple elements.  Because they are elements, minerals cannot be destroyed, or even changed.  Vitamins, however, can be destroyed and broken down into smaller pieces, and thus lose their functionality.  The other important piece of chemistry to know about vitamins is that there are two types, water-soluble and fat-soluble (sometimes called water insoluble).  This seems like a minor thing, but it makes all the difference in the world inside your body.

Differences Between Water Soluble and Fat Soluble Vitamins

The difference between these two types of vitamins is significant for many reasons, storage inside your body, risks of overdose, and even how they should be cooked.  To keep it simple, water soluble vitamins are mainly stored in your blood stream ( which is mostly water) which means excess amounts are urinated out of your body.  Fat soluble vitamins are generally stored inside cells, and thus, excess amounts can build up over time.

Time Destroys Vitamins

When fruit and vegetables are on the vine and still living, the plant is constantly adding vitamins to the fruit or vegetable.  For most fruits and vegetables, the moment it is picked begins a downward decline in nutrient content.  The rate at which vitamins degrade and are lost is dependent on the individual vitamin, and also on the temperature.  Some fruits and vegetables increase in vitamin content for a day or two after being picked if they are in the sun, but that is the exception, not the rule. For the most part, freshest picked has highest vitamin content.  The mineral content of the food is not affected by time.

Heat Destroys Vitamins

This is important for a couple reasons. The first is that as noted above, the temperature affects how quickly vitamins are destroyed over time.  It is best if fruits and vegetables are stored in cool places until eaten.

The other part is cooking.  The temperature and length of cooking drastically reduces the vitamin content of food.  As much as 80% of vitamin content is lost during normal cooking.

Water Soluble Vitamins are Lost During Boiling

The B-complex vitamins along with Vitamin C are all water soluble.  What this means is that if you boil your vegetables in water, most of the vitamin will become disolved in the water you use to boil.  If that water is discarded and not consumed, the vitamins go along with it.  Already about 80% of the vitamins are destroyed just from the heat, add that to the portion that is thrown away with the water and now you have a vegetable on your plate that mostly contains none of those vitamins.

For Highest Nutrient Content, Eat Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

With all this information taken together, it is easy to see why we are always told to eat fresh, raw fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables should always be rinsed thoroughly to removed possible pesticides along with other contamination.  If you do cook your vegetables, steaming them briefly with little water is the best approach. You want to keep the duration as short as possible and use as little water as possible.  In the end, let color be the guide. Imagine the color of broccoli that is old, and has been boiled for 20 minutes compared to the color of fresh broccoli that has been steamed for 2 minutes. The color of the fruit or vegetable as you eat it will give you a great indication of how much vitamin content is left.

If you are concerned about not getting your recommended amount of vitamins, please consider using our  Vitabase Advanced Multivitamin with Probiotics

Explain-Health.com does not provide medical diagnosis or treatment.  Read our full Disclaimer
Please read our  Privacy Policy

© Copyright 2011  www.explain-health.com