Getting the Best Nutritional Value of Vegetables & Fruits

Cooking Vegetables: Stir-frying and cooking in soups for best vegetable nutrition

Vegetable Stir Fry

Dr. Nina Bailey: Boil, steam or fry: are we getting the best nutritional value from our fruit and vegetables?

Eating at least 6 servings a day of fruit and vegetables seems to be having a positive impact on our food choices. By eating fruits and vegetables in a variety of different colors, you get the best all-around health benefits.

When it comes to children, we all know how fussy they can be! It’s often useful to offer them small amounts of different colored types of vegetables, that can be less overwhelming than one large portion of dreaded broccoli. More on getting kids to eat vegetables

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Fruit and vegetables are ‘whole foods’, rich in a large amount of nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals. Tomatoes for example are extremely rich in lycopene, a phytochemical that may reduce risk of cancer by activating special cancer preventive enzymes called phase II detoxification enzymes, which remove harmful carcinogens from cells and the body.

While many types of fruit and vegetables can be eaten uncooked, some can’t, and many of us choose not to eat them in their raw state. But what is the effect of different ways of cooking vegetable on vegetable nutrition – the macronutrients and antioxidants in vegetables?

Microwave cooking is an energy-saving, convenient, and time-saving cooking method. However, the effects on food are controversial. While the effects of microwave cooking on nutritive values of moisture, protein, carbohydrate, lipid, minerals, and vitamins appear minimal, it is the actual changes in the molecular structure of nutrients that still seem unclear. As a consequence many people choose to avoid or limit microwave cooking of vegetable s.

Generally, water is not the cook’s best friend when it comes to cooking vegetables. Many of the vitamins and minerals in fruit and vegetables are water soluble. Any cooking process that involves contact with water will deplete levels of nutrients to different extents (boiling is the worst, whilst steaming is much more nutrient friendly).

Stir frying vegetables usually involves the use of some kind of cooking oil into which water soluble nutrients are unable to enter. Not only does stir frying vegetables help retain the most nutritional value of vegetables, but the resulting texture and color can be more appetizing than with other vegetable cooking methods  – and stir fry is quick!

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There is always some nutritional value lost in cooking vegetables.. However, the degree of vitamin and mineral losses is influenced by various factors, for example the type of food, variety of food, preparation techniques, duration and method of cooking.

Savvy Veg Note: Besides stir-frying vegetables, cooking vegetables in soups, stews and casseroles is another way to get the highest nutritional value of vegetables. Any nutrients that dissolve are consumed along with the cooking liquid or broth. Or soaks into other ingredients.

Article author Dr. Nina Bailey, PhD, is a nutrition scientist working in the areas of dietary health and nutritional intervention, with emphasis on the role of essential fatty acids in conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and depression. 

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One Response to “Getting the Best Nutritional Value of Vegetables & Fruits”

  1. Jackie Ewing says:

    Hey I’m not sure if you have a lot of healthy recipes of your own that you make, but if you do, you should send them into this contest I know of. I noticed your blog online and I think I have something you will be interested in. You could get great exposure for your recipes and meet celebrity cooks (Bobby Flay, Sunny Anderson, Sara Moulton, or Cat Cora). All you have to do is go to to submit one of your healthy recipes. It kicks off on September 4th at the Rockaway Mall in New Jersey. Thank you for your time and good luck with the competition if you decide to enter!

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