What are micronutrients?

In an earlier chapter we spoke about Macronutrients. In this chapter we’re going to discuss the importance of Micronutrients but we’ll be doing so for cooking purposes so if you’re the cook in your household, this might just be what you need to improve your combinations in the kitchen!

Micronutrients are Vitamins, minerals and other compounds such as phytonutrients (plant based). We need these in proportionate amounts for many metabolic and physiological processes.

We’ve spoken about the breakdown of artificial supplements and how whilst they may be exactly what the body needs before they’re broken down, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll have the same effect on the body when crushed into a tablet. This is similar to what we’re about to discuss in this subject.

Different methods of food preparation can affect the vitamin content and bioavailability of the food, for example:

Some micronutrients are most available and best absorbed when eaten raw, others when cooked, others when mixed together and finally when broken down eg mashed or cut. This automatically opens up a range of options to get the nutritional content out of the food we’re cooking, maybe this will change how we cook?

Water soluble vitamins can be lost in water during the cooking and storage process, so sautéing, roasting, blanching and steaming are some effective ways to preserve these vitamins.

Cooking food in boiling water and then discarding the water is basically throwing away the nutrients. Another option would be to use the water as a stock or soup, therefor keeping the nutrients within the meal. The example that we were given was that mashed potatoes (even though you’ve gotten rid of the nutrients in the water) are still better than chips/ fries.

Yellow/ Orange and Red plants are often better absorbed when cooked (these are known as carotenoids).

Finally we have some examples of some foods that are more available when eaten with other foods such as dark leafy greens mixed with bones/ fat soluble vitamins.

Examples:

Put olive oil, avocado and nuts on your salad. We need Vitamin C to best absorb iron from leafy greens so sprinkle some lemon juice on instead. Chop up your garlic and let it sit for a while. This will allow it to release allicin, a powerful disease fighting chemical.

Looking at food like this may open up your eyes to see food in a completely different way. Different cultures have their different cuisines but whilst we used to think that it was more to do with their taste buds, you can now see that it may have more to do with how the human body digests the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients!

Interesting stuff if you ask us.


Justin Beard Pn1

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