Shopping, Preparing and Cooking Vegetables and Fruit
Now of course you are going to automatically think of the many and varied kinds of fruit and vegetables that you are now, and always have been, eating. You had one of the best teachers in the world when it came to telling you what was and wasn’t good for you.
Mothers somehow automatically know what should and should not pass through your system for optimum health. They are in most cases correct, but they just don’t take all things into consideration. Mom will sit you down to a meal that theoretically should contain more than enough vitamins and minerals but in actual fact doesn’t. The meat and vegetables are all there, but the goodness is not! You in turn learn all her secrets and continue to fool yourself.
I don’t think anyone would purposefully try to destroy all the nutrients in the food they buy, yet through a lack of knowledge they do, or at least lose out considerably. Let’s just say that with vegetables in particular, for every dollar that you spend you are probably only getting about a 30c-50c return if that much.
Food’s a big enough rip-off as it is without losing half of what you pay for, so I think you will agree that it’s time to start getting the most for your money. I’ll put some facts in front of you; then if you should feel like using them you can do nothing but benefit. Otherwise don’t worry, because you’ll still be one of the majority. It seems to be a common trait that people can’t see past their noses.
Here are some rules for shopping, preparing and cooking vegetables and fruit:
- Try not to buy vegetables that have been chemically bleached. Darker, brighter colored vegetables contain more nutrients i.e. yellow turnips rather than white. Avoid sun-bleached anemic-looking greens. Dark bright leaves are the best.
- Buy fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season, to get the most for your money quantity and nutrition wise. Refrigerate immediately and do not wash, cut, or prepare in any way until ready for use. Then use it as soon as possible.
- Avoid undue exposure to light and air. This does not mean keeping vegetables in a vacuum but rather just to be fairly quick in preparing them, rather than cutting them up and then letting them sit around for an hour while you wander off somewhere else. Vitamins especially disappear that quickly, so if you want to get the most out of your food put a little speed into your work. Vitamins A and C are lost due to exposure to air, while Riboflavin is lost due to sunlight. Protect leafy greens and milk by keeping them out of bright light, as with milk, for example, exposure for just a few hours will cost you most of its riboflavin. If your milk is used to sitting on your steps in the morning it would be wise to bring it in more quickly or develop some kind of a cover for it.
- Wash vegetables thoroughly but quickly and do not soak them. Water seems all available and most people just can’t use enough of it. They turn on the tap, flood out the vegetable, and away go many of the B vitamins down the drain. Many B vitamins are water-soluble and can be lost very easily. Mothers are incredible offenders when it comes to this part of the preparation, for they want everything to be absolutely clean for their family in the interests of disease prevention; then they tell everyone to eat their salad which is now devoid of most of its vitamins, if not through over-washing then through over-exposure to light. Cooking in water does the same, so if you must, save the cooking liquid and make a broth out of it. Most people pour more goodness down the drain than they end up eating!
- Don’t peel vegetables with a knife and never use copper-plated peelers, shredders, or slicers. Many of the nutrients lie just under the skin, so it is wise to try to save them by using peelers that remove only a very thin layer. The reason to avoid copper is that it destroys Vitamin C on contact. Most people don’t get enough of this vitamin as it is so I would advise saving it if possible.
- Cook vegetables using the best utensils you can afford (glass or stainless steel). You’re investing in your health and nothing is more worthwhile investing in. The payoff in nutrients saved will be far greater than dollars and cents.
- Don’t cook vegetables in a cold water pan. Tight-fitting lids keep the steam in and the light out.
- Don’t start vegetables in cold water as the initial heating should be rapid, and also use the least amount of water possible. The water should boil, the vegetables should be added, and then the heat should be turned down to simmer till done. This is not quite what most of you do, as the rapid boil seems to be students’ favorite cooking weapon! Avoid it, and try not to overcook your vegetables. The shorter the cooking time (at a low heat of course) the better.
- Don’t use salt in cooking vegetables. Tests have proven high losses of vitamins and minerals if salt is used in cooking. So if you must use salt use it AFTER the vegetables are cooked (preferably in smaller quantities than you are accustomed to, as it is far from being good for you and can cause many problems) and if possible use SEA SALT which contains natural minerals.
- Don’t use soda in cooking vegetables as it destroys Vitamin C and some B vitamins. I doubt that many of you use this to keep the better color in your vegetables, but if you do, try lemon juice instead.
In summary, prepare and cook your vegetables without overexposure to AIR, LIGHT, WATER, COPPER, SODA, EXCESSIVE HEAT, OVER COOKING.
Now that I’ve talked about vegetable preparation in general, I think I should get into the more specific area of cooking. Obviously from the above, you should gather that there must be some good ways of preparing vegetables, and also that boiling hell out of them is not one!
The following are three methods that I have found work quite well. They produce tasty vegetables, get you out of the kitchen in minimum time, and retain the greatest amount of vitamins and minerals. Once again I feel the combination is just too perfect!
STEAMING: Ideally, heavy cooking utensils with tight-fitting lids should be used. A couple of tablespoons of water are added to the preheated pot, the vegetables are added and the lid replaced. The vegetables are then steamed until done. This really only works with good equipment, but I’ve found that any pot with a reasonable lid will do, if the amount of water is increased slightly.
By slightly I mean up to 4 tablespoons, and then if you find the water disappearing too quickly just add a little more. With this method, put the vegetables in with the water, place over a hot flame or element until it begins to steam, then turn the heat very low. All this may sound very elementary but it’s amazing the number of people who can’t follow these things.
Oh, one of the important factors is cutting the vegetables up in thin slices or cubes, otherwise, this method will take longer. This is the method that I have found to work the best for me, so I don’t feel you should have any problem with it. Next time you cook vegetables don’t flood them out, but rather just use enough water to do the job.
JUICE-STEWING: This is a recommended and preferred method of nutritionists. No water is required as the moisture in the vegetables is sufficient. The bottom of a heavy saucepan is brushed with oil, the vegetables put in, and then covered tightly and sauteed (shaken over the flame).
The juices from the vegetables produce steam and along with the oil make cooking rapidly. The vegetables must be thinly sliced and the utensil must be of good quality. If removed from the heat before the stewing process takes place, you will be left with crisp vegetables such as those used in Chinese cooking.
BROILING: This is a simple and nutritious method that produces great flavors. Vegetables are brushed with oil and then merely placed under the broiler or griller. The oil locks in the juices to prevent loss of nutrients. Initial heating should be rapid then turned back. I have found this to be a great way to do potato slices and many other types of vegetables.
Well, these are the best methods. They all work equally well and should get you in and out of the kitchen FASTER and HEALTHIER than usual. No great demands are made upon you to use them; it just seems silly to spend as much or more time in preparing things and get less out of them. The decision again is up to you. I just hope you have the brains to make the right one!