We are coming up on the busiest cooking months of the year.  Cooking has a large effect on the nutritional content of our foods. At Rebalance, we focus on movement but optimal movement should be backed by optimal nutrition.  The ways that we choose to cook have a tremendous influence on the nutrition content of our food.

The best way to get the most nutritional content from your foods is to eat them raw. Once a fruit or vegetable is picked, it begins to lose its nutritional value.  While it’s true that cooking can destroy some of the nutrients in food, it can also make other nutrients more easily absorbed like in high fiber foods and animal proteins.  Cooking can also destroy parts of plants that can be harmful and can also make foods that are tough to eat easier to chew.

So while there are benefits for raw food, the holidays and winter months can be a time where we prefer to eat a lot of cooked food rather than raw food.  Here are some recommendations to maximize the nutrients in your food.



Cooking Methods:

  1. 1. Bake or Roast: Foods are gently cooked using hot dry air usually in the oven.  Because no additional liquid is added to the food, most nutrients remain in the food with this method.  Baking involves cooking foods that lack a solid structure until they are heated.  Roasting involves cooking foods that have a solid structure before cooking begins and is used with meat or vegetables.
  2. 2. Boil and Blanch: This water-based cooking method uses hot water to cook food.  Boiling is a longer method and blanching is short, around 1 minute long. Boiling is a process that can be intense and most of the nutrients leech out of the food into the cooking liquid.  If the food is drained before eating, many of the nutrients can be lost.  Consider this when you choose the method of cooking.  To get the most out of cooking with water, try blanching or try to consume the liquid when boiling foods.
  3. 3. Fry or Saute: Foods are fried quickly in small amounts of hot fat and oil.  Healthy fats and oils like olive oil will help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients (such as Vitamins A, D, E, and K) from your body.  Any liquid that is released from vegetables when sautéing should be consumed as well.
  4. 4. Slow Cook: Foods are cooked gently, usually in a liquid, over low heat for a long period of time. Because a lot of water-soluble vitamins and minerals will leech into the liquid, this method is good choice for stews and one pot meals that will use cooking liquid. The best way to maximize this nutrient method is to cook everything but the vegetables for an extended time and then add the vegetables at the last 30 minutes.
  5. 5. Steam: This is a method where most of the nutrients stay intact. The steam from the boiling water provides heat to cook the food without touching it.  No cooking fat is involved however so fat-soluble vitamins will not be absorbed the body unless steamed food is served with the fat or oil.
  6. 6. Simmer or Poach: This is similar to boiling because it is also liquid-based.  The difference is in the temperature of the liquid used.  With a simmer, food is cooked at a lower temperature maintaining the flavor without damaging the food.  Poached foods are cooked at lower temperatures as well thus maintaining the moisture in foods like eggs, fish, and poultry that can easily dry out.

These are just some things to consider as you prepare meals this holiday season. Happy Holidays and happy cooking!

Written by Stephanie Muntzer, MPT, PYT, RYT200, CPI, SFMA, FMSc

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