Preserving Nutrients

You already know that fruits and veggies provide many of the nutrients you need to stay healthy. But did you know that fresh produce starts losing key nutrients as soon as it's harvested? We asked Milton Stokes, RD, American Dietetic Association spokesperson, how to store and prepare these foods to best preserve precious nutrients.

Cantaloupe, carrots, spinach, and sweet potatoes. Oxygen destroys the vitamin A in these foods, so try to keep them uncut as long as possible.

Carrots, corn, peaches, and potatoes. These foods all contain niacin, a water-soluble vitamin. Cook these fruits and vegetables only briefly and with a lid on to prevent nutrient loss. Use these foods in soups and stews to retain nutrients in the cooking liquid.

Broccoli, corn, mushrooms, and cauliflower. The heat used to cook and can these foods causes them to lose some of their pantothenic acid. To preserve the vitamin, cook these foods as briefly as possible.

Dark green vegetables and milk. These foods all contain vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Because light exposure reduces levels of riboflavin, store milk in opaque containers. Avoid soaking veggies, and cook them in minimal water to prevent riboflavin loss during cooking.

Acorn squash, beans, and potatoes. To reduce thiamin loss, avoid soaking these foods. Steam or boil them in as little water as possible, then save the cooking water to use in sauces, stocks, or gravies. Keep produce in its larger, original forms when possible: Don't cut into pieces for storage.

Broccoli, citrus fruits/juices, green peppers, strawberries, and tomatoes. Oxygen destroys the vitamin C in these foods, so drink juices within a few days of opening cartons, and keep whole foods out of open air. Vitamin C also leaches into cooking water, so cook C-rich foods as quickly as possible.

Green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, and whole grains. To prevent nutrient loss, process them only when necessary to prepare the recipe. Store E-rich foods in airtight containers to avoid exposing them to oxygen and light.