Whole foods have many nutritional benefits. Proper culinary preparation will help to maximize the vitamin, mineral, and nutrient content of the food on our dinner plates. Cooking induces many physical changes in food. Creating nutrient-rich, healthful meals begins with learning a few basics about nutrition.
What Are Vitamins & Minerals? – Vitamins are organic compounds our bodies require in small amounts from the diet or supplements. Minerals like copper, zinc, and selenium are substances also required by the body. Most vitamins cannot be manufactured by the body in sufficient quantities to promote good health. So it is necessary to acquire these nutrients through diet or supplements.
Some vitamins are fat-soluble, while others are water-soluble. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble; vitamin C and the B vitamins are water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are not as easily damaged or destroyed as are water-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins will hold up to cooking at moderate heat. Heat diminishes water-soluble vitamins. On the other hand, minerals are very stable. The cooking process will not destroy or diminish mineral content.
About Dietary Fiber – It is important to consume foods high in dietary fiber. Vegetables, fruits, grains, herbs, and spices are full of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber supports gut health, which is integral to nutrient absorption. Dietary fiber also supports healthy cholesterol levels and aids in the regulation of blood sugar. Most cooking methods do not greatly affect dietary fiber content. The exception to this is using a pressure cooker. Soaking in water will diminish soluble dietary fiber.
The major loss of dietary fiber occurs when fruits and vegetables are peeled. Dietary fiber, vitamins, and phytonutrients tend to accumulate in the peel and skin of fruits and vegetables. When produce is peeled, the dietary fiber, vitamins, and phytonutrients are discarded at the same time. Straining foods and the use of juice extractors will also diminish dietary fiber content. If a smooth consistency is desired, puree using a high-speed blender. A high-speed blender will retain the dietary fiber and nutrients.
Culinary Preparation – Culinary preparation influences the quantity of nutrients present in a particular food. Cooking tomatoes increases the body’s access to the nutrient lycopene while it diminishes the amount of vitamin C that is present. Moderate steaming and sautéing break down plant cell walls, increasing the body’s access to fat-soluble nutrients. Sautéed spinach has more bioavailable lutein than fresh spinach. Allow onions and garlic to rest for 10 minutes before cooking. This will allow for the development of benfotiamine, which is important for blood sugar regulation. Heat an empty sauté pan over medium heat. When the desired temperature is reached, add the oil immediately followed by the food you are cooking. For high-heat cooking, use oil that has a high smoke point like coconut or macadamia nut. Olive oil should be used in lower temperature cooking and in salad dressings.
What is the difference between a broth and a stock? In the home kitchen, there is little difference between a stock and a broth. Technically, a stock is an unseasoned liquid made from bones; a broth is seasoned and made from meat. However, most stock and broth recipes are really a hybrid of the two. (And where does that leave a stock made from vegetables?) For ease of this discussion, I will use the term broth to describe this delicious concoction.
When making a broth, it is unnecessary to spend the time picking bones absolutely clean in order to make a delicious and nutritious broth. Leaving a bit of meat on the bones may turn the broth a bit cloudy, but it will not affect the flavor. What is important nutritionally is adding a bit of vinegar along with the bones. This helps to extract minerals out of the bones. Also, add the vegetables, herbs, and spices towards the end of the cooking process. Cover with a lid after the addition of vegetables, herbs, and spices. Covering will help to reduce the loss of vitamins as steam.
Bone Broth – Well-made bone broth is nutrient rich. It is low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals. The protein content in bone broth helps to regulate blood sugar. Use bone broth in your favorite recipe or enjoy a hot cup for an afternoon pick me up.
Makes a variable amount
3 – 4 lbs chicken and/or beef bones, raw or cooked
Water, enough to cover the bones by 1 inch
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 garlic bulb, cut in half
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
10 whole peppercorns
1/2 bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley
- Add the bones, vinegar, and water to a large stock pot.
- Bring to a simmer. Cover loosely and simmer for 8 to 10 hours, skimming scum off the surface as it develops. Add additional boiling water if liquid has evaporated below the level of the bones.
- One hour before the broth is finished, add garlic, onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns, and parsley. Cover the stock pot and continue simmering.
- After 1 hour, remove from the heat. Allow the liquid “gold” to cool enough to safely strain. Strain the broth first through a colander. Press to extract any liquid left behind.
- Strain a second time through a fine mesh sieve. Pour into containers and refrigerate.
- When the broth has congealed, remove the excess fat from the surface. At this point, use within 3 days if refrigerated or 3 months if frozen.
Nutritional facts per serving: calories 38kcal; total fat 0.1g; saturated fat 0g; cholesterol 0mg; sodium 23mg; total carbohydrates 7g; dietary fiber 1g; sugars 3g; protein 11g; vitamin A 52%*; calcium 6%*; vitamin C 23%*; iron 4%*
Ocular Health Nutrients: vitamin A, beta carotene, lutein+zeaxanthin; vitamins C, K; protein to promote blood sugar regulation, collagen; phytonutrients: allicin, quercetin, benfotiamine, piperine
Sandra Young, OD
Beyond Carrots & Kale, LLC
Author of Visionary Kitchen: A Cookbook for Eye Health
Available nationwide at Natural Grocers and on Amazon.com.
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