AskFood: How to prevent vitamin loss when cooking vegetables

Food Network Kitchens - Q: How can I prevent vitamin loss when cooking vegetables?

A: There's no doubt vegetables have lots of good nutrition to offer, but how you purchase, store and prepare them can dramatically affect their value. Here's what you need to know when cooking your favorite veggies.

The less time it takes for the veggies to get to your plate, the more nutrients they'll retain. Support local agriculture in your community or get your hands dirty by planting some of your own herbs and vegetables.

Once you get those fresh vegetables home, minimize additional nutrient loss by eating them right away or storing in the refrigerator or freezer. Cold temperatures will limit the degradation of vitamins, so use the vegetable drawer in your fridge (where humidity is higher) and store in an airtight bag or container. Avoid trimming and chopping before storage, too; this will limit surface area and help lock in more of the vitamins.

Cooking veggies can further diminish the content of various water-soluble vitamins, including folate, thiamin, B6 and vitamin C, especially in foods that sit out heated for more than two hours. Vitamin A, riboflavin and niacin tend to hang in there a bit better, while fiber and minerals will remain virtually unaffected.

Overcooked veggies are better than no veggies at all, but quick cooking will maximize nutrients. Take advantage of as many vitamins as possible by following these tips:

-- Keep skins on when possible

-- Avoid continuous reheating of food

-- Use a minimal amount of cooking liquid

-- Choose steaming over boiling

-- Use the microwave

-- Use a pressure cooker when possible

-- Avoid using baking soda to retain color

Courtesy Dana Angelo White on foodnetwork.com

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