Don't overcook everything: Steaming or steaming vegetables keeps the loss of nutrients comparatively small. Photo: dpa

You eat a balanced diet with plenty of different vitamins and minerals. But that could be for naught with the wrong preparation.

It can be confusing: Water-soluble vitamins will leach into boiling water, which is often dumped down the sink, while fat-soluble vitamins require heat in order for them to be useful for the body.

Vegetables are all over the board. It’s impossible to cook carrots in a way that makes them nutrition-less, says food journalist Dagmar von Cramm, while cabbage requires a dunk in some boiling water first.

Don’t overcook everything: Steaming or steaming vegetables keeps the loss of nutrients comparatively small. Photo: dpa

The general rule to maximise vitamin derivation is to use as little liquid as possible and steam the vegetable. “Ideally, the vegetables are cooked quickly and only until they’re firm,” according to Harald Seitz, an expert from Germany’s Federal Centre for Nutrition.

For fruit, raw is usually best. “Up to 40 percent of vitamin C and beta-carotene amounts are lost,” says Margret Morlo, a nutrition expert from a German association for nutrition and dietetics.

Apples in particular are better eaten with the peel, which contains lots of fibre that helps with digestion, as well as many vitamins. That said, that doesn’t mean you should avoid eating a peeled apple.

For fish, Morlo recommends gentle cooking methods for keeping their valuable nutrients. Depending on the type of fish, that could mean steaming, stewing or cooking in hot — but not boiling — water.

Protein, iron, zinc and vitamins, for example, can be found in meat. Cooking, in this case, is a must. “When raw, animal products such as chicken or beef can be contaminated with germs,” warns Morlo. Thus, spending some time in a pot, pan or on the grill is a good idea — just not too long. First quickly cook the meat at high heat and then finish it at a lower temperature to keep nutrients locked in.

Potatoes, noodles and rice contain lots of B vitamins, which benefit your skin, nerves and metabolism. However, you lose out on these vitamins when you boil rice in water. “That’s why it’s a good idea to measure the water in the pot to make sure the rice sucks it all up,” says von Cramm. But that doesn’t really work for noodles or potatoes.

Seitz advices to keep the pasta water and use it in a sauce to get those nutrients in a round-about way. But for potato water, it’s better to just dump it ― potatoes release the plant poison solanine. – dpa