Retaining the nutrients in vegetables
Vegetables are important sources of vitamins and minerals, but these delicate micronutrients are easily destroyed by heat.
Vegetables are important sources of vitamins and minerals, but these delicate micronutrients are easily destroyed by heat. It is therefore best to eat at least some of your daily servings raw - for example, in salads or as snacks, such as baby carrots, celery sticks, or slices of cucumber or pepper.
When you do cook vegetables, the golden rule is to do so for the minimum amount of time and in as little liquid as possible, in order to retain their valuable nutrients. Suitable methods of cooking vegetables include steaming, stir-frying, sautéing, microwaving, and poaching (see Healthy cooking methods).
- Steaming: Since the vegetables are not immersed in water, this method retains the maximum nutrients and fresh taste.
- Sautéing: Requiring very little oil, finely diced vegetables can be quickly fried in a large shallow pan over a high heat.
In addition to using healthy cooking methods, avoid adding saturated fat in the form of butter or cream sauces. If you think your vegetables need additional flavouring, add some fresh chopped herbs, freshly ground black pepper, or lemon.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and swede, are particularly beneficial for health. They contain phytochemicals and other compounds that may help detoxify certain cancer-causing substances before they have a chance to cause harm in the body. This family of vegetables are also rich in beta-carotene, vitamins B1 and C, folate, calcium, iron, and potassium, as well as fibre.
Tomatoes also have important health benefits. They are rich in lycopene, a carotenoid that helps to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancers. Lycopene is a fat-soluble substance that is absorbed best when cooked in oil. Tomatoes also contain the antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
Carrots are a rich source of beta-carotene, which is a precursor of vitamin A. As an antioxidant, beta-carotene helps protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer.
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