Eating nutritious and healthy food is what we all focus upon in today’s time as it improves your overall health, keep you disease free and maintain good energy levels. We all know that consumption of healthy and nutritious food is important but not many of us know the way you cook your food also impacts your health in a certain manner. Yes, cooking methods do help in retaining the nutrient content of foods. The way you cook your food helps in improving digestion and increase absorption of various vitamins and minerals. However, there are several nutrients which get lost from food as soon as they come in contact with heat. For instance, water soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C, B vitamins like thiamine, niacin and folic acid and minerals such as iron, zinc and potassium. While there are some foods such as carrots, spinach and tomatoes where heat through cooking amplifies the release of antioxidants by breaking the cell walls providing an easier passage of health components from food to body.
Let’s know how various cooking methods affect the nutrients present in food:
Boiling – Boling is quick and easy method of cooking food by just adding water with a pinch of salt in it. But in addition, it reduces Vitamin C from foods from up to 50% especially from green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and amaranth. Vitamin C is water soluble and heat sensitive vitamin so it leaches out of vegetables easily when exposed to boiling water. While this method dissolves many nutrients from food, it’s not the worst method of cooking as it does retain certain vitamins and minerals such as beta carotenes in carrot and lycopene in tomatoes.
Grilling- It is one method which offers nutrition without sacrificing flavour. The food is grilled using dry heat. It requires minimum added fats and keeps the veggies juicy and tender by imparting them with a smoky flavour. While these are definitely the benefits but not everything about grilling is healthy. When food is exposed to high heat, it creates fat and protein imbalance leading to release of toxins in the body which results in inflammation and increase the risk of serious diseases such as heart diseases and Diabetes mellitus.
Microwaving – It is the most convenient, safe and easy method of cooking. It is one cooking method which offers minimal destruction of nutrients present in food. The cooking timings are also very short which helps in preserving the vitamins and minerals present in food. It has been found that microwaving the food retains the antioxidant activity in various foods such as garlic and mushrooms. The only down side of this method is 20-30% of Vitamin C is lost during microwaving which is still quite less than other methods.
Roasting and Baking – It is the cooking method which is done in an oven using dry heat. Roasting typically is used for chicken and fish while baking is used for breads, muffins and cakes. Nutrient losses are very minimal in this method including Vitamin C but sometimes the due to long cooking times B vitamins are lost by 30 %.
Steaming – It is one of the best methods of keeping intact almost all nutrients including water soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C and B vitamins which are sensitive to heat and water. It has been found that steaming the green vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, broccoli and cabbage enhances the anticarcinogenic compounds present in them.
Sautéing – In this method the food is cooked from medium to high heat in small amount of oil. It is one of the healthy ways of cooking food. Cooking for a short period of time in oil prevents the loss of B vitamins and improves the absorption of antioxidants and plant-based compounds present in food.
No cooking, just raw – Consuming raw food in the form of salads and sprouts have several benefits. It has been shown that consuming variety of fruits and vegetables in raw form reduces the risk of cancer to two times. By inculcating this method, you end up filling yourself with fibre, vitamins and minerals and no added sugar or fats from cooking.
Over to you
It is evident that cooking does impacts the overall nutrition. So, eating healthy is important but the way you cook food is also imperative. Consuming the right food using the appropriate method can actually help to achieve your health goals. Keep alternating between various cooking methods and enjoy the goodness of foods!