Nutrition as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is the intake of food, considered in relation to the body’s dietary needs. Good nutrition, a well balanced diet combined with routine physical activities is the foundation of good healthy living. Poor nutrition can lead to a compromised immune system, increased susceptibility to disease, impaired physical and mental development, and reduced productivity. Your lifestyle, the food you eat and the method of preparation, play an important role in determining the level of nutritional value gained by an individual. It is said that an average home loses 85% of nutrient in their food due to the process of preparing the food.
Nutrition basically focuses on how diseases, health conditions and problems can be prevented. However, there are some enemies of nutrition that we do not normally put into consideration while ensuring proper nourishment.
Some of these enemies of nutrition are:
Cooking with water
Fats and oil
Most of the nutrients in underground plant products, as well as other plant products for food are usually embedded in the outer layer or skin of the plant products. Peeling the outer layer or skin before cooking, takes off most of the nutrient in the food. Peeling causes the loss of 50% of the nutrients to be derived from the food. It is advisable to wash the plant product properly without peeling the outer layer and cook on low heat in order to retain the nutrients. Peeling can be done afterwards.Oxidation:
Nutrients are usually more sensitive and reactive when exposed to air, heat or light. Oxidation of food is the breakdown of that food in the presence of air and light. It is a natural chemical process that occurs in living cells. When the outer membrane of a fruit is ruptured, the fruit constituents are exposed to oxygen and oxygen being a reactive compound reacts with the phenolic compounds and enzymes of the fruit. This is the reason why a slice of apple turns brown color in few minutes when exposed to the atmosphere. The longer the exposure to air and light, the lesser the vitamins and nutrients contained. Low temperatures delay the rate of oxidation. Therefore plant products should be stored in cool-dry-air tight chambers to prevent their decomposition.
Cooking with water:
Using water to prepare food has its own short coming as the use of water causes loss of nutrients and minerals. As far as vegetables are concerned, cooking them in water robs them of some of their nutritional value because the nutrients and essential constituents leach out into the cooking water. When you lose colors, vitamins have been lost and when you lose flavor, minerals have been lost. For instance, when diced carrot is cooked for a bit in water, you would observe that the water used turns orange color which indicates the loss of vitamins. When tasted, you would observe that the carrot flavor would have reduced, which indicates the loss of minerals from the carrot. It is rather advisable to steam food rather than cook directly with water, as steaming helps to retain the essential nutrients in foods.
Cooking with high heat is one of the enemies to nutrition as nutrients are destroyed when heated above 90˚C. Food should be cooked with low heat, ideally below 90˚C to ensure that the nutrients remain intact and are not destroyed.
Microwave is one gadget most homes cannot do without; the convenience it provides is undeniable. However microwave uses electromagnetic energy/waves which cause the vibration of water molecules to cook the food. The exposure of food to the electromagnetic waves which bring about the vibration of the molecules, cause the production of heat and the breakdown of food nutrients. This alters the composition of the food in question. It is advisable to do without microwave and stick to the usual conventional method of cooking (steaming precisely).Fats and Oil:
Fats and oil make our food 7-8 times harder to digest. The reason is that our body is majorly made up of water and thus, the body membranes are highly hydrophilic (water loving). When foods are fried with a lot of oil, the nutrients are destroyed like in the case of proteins where they are denatured. Also when these foods are consumed, the body being hydrophilic in nature finds it hard to breakdown and reach out to the left over nutrients in the oily food, as oil is hydrophobic (water hating) in nature. It is advisable to reduce the use of oil to the minimum possible level possible or even do away with cooking with oil.
These enemies of nutrition are easily overlooked in most homes but once they are put into consideration and avoided accordingly, a healthier and more improved life style is guaranteed.