Monday, October 15, 2012

Vegetable Preparation - to cut and cover with water or not?

I was posed a question recently by someone who has spent every Sunday lovingly preparing the vegetables for lunch and setting them aside covered in water. He had been told by a (well meaning) friend that he shouldn't do this, as all the nutrients would be lost in the water. Scandalised by the thought that something he had been doing all his life was not the thing at all, he came to me in case I had an answer.

So in not very scientific terms, I outlined my position on the subject. I give it to you verbatim below. I would love to hear your thoughts on this too. Do you prepare your vegetables this way? I know my mother in law does. I wonder if there is a historical precedent for it? My assumption is that it has something to do with preparing the meal before going to church - like prepping veg in advance for Christmas or Thanksgiving. As someone who has rather a smash and grab approach to vegetables, I would love to know any stories behind preparing vegetables in this way.

Anyway - here are my thoughts, lets have yours in the comments.

My opinion on the matter of cut veg in water goes like this:

1. Picking vegetables and eating them straight away, raw, steamed or lightly cooked is the most nutritious way to consume veg. Once they have been out of the ground for a while, most veg lose a lot of their vitamins - although minerals will still be intact. The main ones that are destroyed are vitamin C, bioflavanoids and B complex. So buying local, growing your own and getting a veg box from the farmer maintain the most nutrients in your veg. Buying old supermarket veg or anything that has come further than France, Holland or Scotland will probably have lost much of its original nutritious value.

2. Cutting veg further reduces nutrients by exposing them to air - nutrients are easily destroyed by oxygen. The ideal method is to pick, cut and cook or just eat your veg as soon as possible after it has been cut. If you need to cut your veg prior to cooking it then covering it in a small amount of cold water will slow down oxidation. Water will leach some of the nutrients out, but possibly less than if you cut and left your veg exposed to air.

3. The way you cook your veg has a great impact on the nutrients left in them at the end. Boiling leaches out lots of nutrients, much more than steaming - but if you cook your veg in a stew and eat the liquid that they were cooked in then you will still consume all but the heat sensitive nutrients, which are destroyed by cooking of any method.

4. If being able to prepare veg in advance ensures that you eat more of it then you will be getting more nutrients anyway - even if some are lost through cutting and keeping in water.

5. If you are concerned about getting enough nutrients from your veg, try to eat some sprouted seeds, nuts and grains every day, add some sea vegetables (seaweed) and some baby salad greens (mustard and cress, baby beet shoot, radish shoots - can be grown even by children on your windowsill). This way you will pack in the maximum amount of nutrient in the smallest amount of veg and happily continue preparing your other veg in any way that suits your lifestyle.

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