How foods are cooked can have a big impact on their nutrient content. That’s because many vitamins are sensitive to heat and air exposure, vitamin C, the B vitamins and folate in particular. Loss of nutrients increases as cooking time increases and with higher temperatures.


How foods are cooked can have a big impact on their nutrient content. That’s because many vitamins are sensitive to heat and air exposure, vitamin C, the B vitamins and folate in particular. Loss of nutrients increases as cooking time increases and with higher temperatures.
Cooking methods that minimize the time, temperature and amount of water needed will help preserve nutrients.
Steaming is a great way to cook vegetables quickly and retain valuable nutrients. Microwave cooking also is good because it uses minimal water, and cooking time is very short. Stir frying is another way to quickly cook a variety of vegetables.
Here are a few other tricks you can use to preserve nutrients:
• Leave vegetables in big pieces. That way, fewer vitamins are destroyed when they are exposed to air.
• Always cover your pot to hold in steam and heat. This also will help reduce cooking time.
• Use any leftover cooking water in soups and stews, sauces or vegetable juice drinks.
• Eat fruits and vegetables raw whenever possible in salads and smoothies or as whole fruits and vegetables.
• Cook vegetables until crisp. Don’t overcook.
• Use as little water as possible when cooking.
All of the tips above will help you retain the maximum amount of nutrients in your fruits and vegetables. The most important factor, however, is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables each day, cooked and raw.

Susan M. Jackson is the Harvey County Extension agent, family and consumer sciences and community development.