THE EFFECT OF PROCESSING AND PREPARATION
ON THE NUTRITIONAL CONTENT OF FOODS
Even if you eat a “perfect diet,” are you sure you’re getting everything you think you are from your food?
It’s a good question, and one you probably haven’t asked recently—or maybe at all. How does freezing, cooking, drying, and reheating affect the nutritional content of food? What about grilling? Should you cook your vegetables, or eat them raw?
Many of the nutrients in foods you eat are affected in different ways by the method of storage, processing, preparation, and cooking. Did you know that you lose as much as 80 percent of the vitamin C content of a fruit when it is dried?
There are exceptions, too. Cooking improves the bioavailability of carotenoids from foods. Cooked carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage, peppers, and many other vegetables supply more nutrients than when they’re raw. That means you get more carotenoids and ferulic acid. However, it is also true that cooking destroys much of the vitamin C and polyphenol content.
Another important carotenoid, lycopene, is also more bioavailable when the food source is cooked and processed. Tomato paste contains much more usable lycopene than raw tomatoes. Broccoli provides more of certain healthy nutrients when cooked, and more of other healthy compounds when raw.
There isn’t a single best way to prepare, store, process, or cook your food. As always, it comes down to variety and moderation. The best way to ensure you harvest maximum benefits from your diet is to eat a variety of the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables no matter how they’re prepared. And the more ways you make them delicious and enticing to you, the more likely you are to eat fruits and vegetables.
Here is a very informative page on the nutritional effects of food processing.