The way you eat your vegetables can affect the amount of nutrition you gain from them. Generally, the freshest and less processed vegetables will supply you with the most nutrients. Immediately after the harvest the nutrients in a vegetable will start to deteriorate, including the anti-oxidants. The sooner you eat a vegetable after it has been harvested, the more nutrients it will have. An excellent way to ensure you get the freshest vegetables is a home garden! You can simply walk out of the door, pick the vegetables and put them straight into your meals. However, not everyone has the time or space for a home garden.
One of the next best things you can use instead of a home garden is a farmers’ market! The vegetables from a farmers’ market are usually grown locally and are significantly fresher than what you can buy at the supermarket.
After the farmers’ market the next best thing is surprisingly frozen vegetables. Many people do not know how nutritious frozen food can be for you. In some cases it can be more nutritious than fresh, especially if the food has been transported over a long distance. For example, if you live in Washington D.C. and are eating fresh vegetables from California those vegetables have spent multiple days in a truck before arriving at the market.
Once the vegetable is picked the sugars start to convert to starch, this is why freshly picked corn straight from the farm is much sweeter than the kind of corn that has been sitting in the supermarket for days. However, many vegetables, such as frozen peas, are usually flash frozen and preserve their nutrients.
Eating cooked vegetables is generally not as nutritious as eating raw vegetables. If you do cook vegetables, you must make sure to do it only long enough to make them tender. The longer you leave them cooking, the more nutrients are being lost. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as tomatoes. Tomatoes can provide greater amounts of lycopene when they are cooked than when eaten raw. Cooking them helps to break down the plant’s cell walls, which releases greater amounts of nutrients.
Canned vegetables have the lowest amount of nutrients. Many vegetables lose their vitamins and nutrients in processing under high heat. Water-soluble vitamins are easily lost as they are boiled in the canning process. Raw vegetables are generally better, but if eating raw vegetables is unappealing to the point where you would rather avoid them, then it is fine to eat them lightly cooked. It is always better to get some nutrients!
Getting good nutrition can appear very complex as we are always learning more about it. If you have any questions you would like to ask about leading a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition, then give us a call and one of our team will help you! We look forward hearing from you!
For Your Health,
Dr. Joseph Gambardella, Dr. Todd Brown and Dr. Benjamin Erb