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Getting the Most Out of Vegetables

October 01, 1987|TONI TIPTON

Try as we might to stick to a strict regimen of using only the freshest and most wholesome ingredients available, the truth of the matter is, there are times when using fresh produce is downright wasteful if an improper cooking or storage method is employed.

Everyone would tend to agree that fresh fruits and vegetables are a best bet, nutritionally speaking, especially compared to the canned variety since much of the vitamin and mineral content is lost during the canning process.

According to "Jane Brody's Nutrition Book" (Bantam Books: 1987): "Fresh fruits and vegetables are richer sources of vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients than fruits and vegetables that have been canned, since vital nutrients are lost during processing and storage. . . . Many vitamins are soluble in water (all the B vitamins and C) and many are destroyed by the high temperatures involved in canning. As a result, canned foods may retain half or less of the original content of many vitamins; additional vitamins are lost during storage.

Additional Loss

"Furthermore, canned vegetables continue to lose vital nutrients after the trip home--especially at temperatures in excess of 65 degrees. The losses of B-6 and pantothenic acid can be as high as 91% in canned foods. . . . You can't expect to meet the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for these vitamins if you subsist on a menu of refined, process and canned foods."

Frozen vegetables, Brody suggests, are a better alternative than canned. Also, those who can't shop frequently enough (Brody encourages consumers to use fresh fruits and vegetables within the first couple of days after purchasing) to ensure maximum freshness and vitamin and mineral retention in fresh vegetables "may be better off with foods that are picked ripe, usually when vitamin content is at its peak, and then rapidly (frozen), whereas days or weeks may elapse before fresh produce reaches your table." Frozen boil-in-the-bag vegetables are preferred by Brody for their vitamin content.

Vegetables of any variety--fresh, frozen or canned--usually lose their nutrients to the cooking water in which they are prepared because the water is most often poured down the drain before serving the vegetable. To avoid this, food technologists suggest cooking vegetables in a minimum amount of water. Steaming or microwaving in small amounts of liquid is ideal. While some scientists prefer steaming to microwaving and vice versa, neither method has been proven superior over the other in laboratory tests, according to "Food Science" by Helen Charley, professor emeritus of foods and nutrition, Oregon State University (Macmillan: 1986).

Boiling in the skin is another suggestion but cook only until barely done.

These main-dish recipes call upon frozen vegetable combinations as well as vegetables frozen with or without sauces. They include low-calorie protein sources like shrimp, eggs and chicken. Serve with tossed green salad, if desired, and whole-grain bread for a nutritionally balanced meal, that is convenient, too.


1/4 cup margarine

1/4 teaspoon tarragon, optional

2 whole chicken breasts, skinned, halved and boned

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons white wine

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 cups frozen broccoli, cauliflower and carrots

Sliced almonds

Melt 2 tablespoons margarine and combine in small bowl with tarragon. Place chicken in 1 1/2- or 2-quart microwave-safe dish. Brush with margarine mixture. Cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH 10 to 12 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, turning dish half-turn and rearranging chicken halfway through cooking. Let stand, covered, while preparing vegetables.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons margarine in 2-quart microwave-safe casserole. Blend in flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Add milk and microwave on HIGH 4 to 6 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring frequently.

Stir in white wine and mustard and blend well. Stir in vegetables. Microwave on HIGH 6 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are hot, stirring halfway through cooking.

Arrange chicken breasts and vegetables on serving platter and sprinkle with almonds. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Almonds are not included in nutrient data.

PER SERVING: 310 calories; 27 gm protein; 9 gm carbohydrate; 17 gm fat; 470 mg sodium; 450 mg potassium.


Protein 40% Riboflavin 10% Vitamin A 40% Niacin 50% Vitamin C 50% Calcium 10% Thiamine 08% Iron 08%


1/3 cup water

1/4 cup white wine

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 pound medium deveined shrimp

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon oil

1/4 teaspoon grated ginger root

2 cups frozen early peas

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts

1/4 cup sliced green onions

Chow mein noodles

Combine water, wine and soy sauce in medium bowl. Add shrimp and stir to coat well. Cover and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Remove shrimp, reserving soy sauce mixture. Stir cornstarch into soy sauce and set aside.

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