Herb nu­tri­ents RAW v. COOKED

Whether you want to max­imise the flavour or nu­tri­ent value of herbs, the way you use them could make all the dif­fer­ence.

Herbs & Superfoods - - Culinary Herbs In The Kitchen -

What would roast lamb be with­out rose­mary? Or pesto with­out basil? Whether used fresh or dried, there’s no doubt that herbs can take a dish from good to great with their lively, aro­matic flavours. But the ques­tion is, do herbs lose their vi­ta­mins and min­er­als when cooked? The short an­swer is yes. The longer an­swer is yes and no.

Re­ten­tion of vi­ta­mins de­pends on how the dish has been pre­pared. Some vi­ta­mins, in par­tic­u­lar vi­ta­mins C and B5, are heat-sen­si­tive and will dis­si­pate when ex­posed to heat. Vi­ta­min C is also sol­u­ble in water. One Dan­ish study showed that boil­ing broc­coli for just five min­utes caused up to 65 per cent of its vi­ta­min C to be lost.

The water-sol­u­ble B vi­ta­mins are also lost when boiled in water – or rather, they leach into the water. Some of it is lost al­to­gether when boiled ex­ces­sively, but much will re­main, and that water can be saved to make sauces and soups to get the ben­e­fits of the vi­ta­mins.

This means that the less con­tact with water and shorter cook­ing time of fruit, herbs and veg­eta­bles, the more C and B vi­ta­mins are re­tained.

The same Dan­ish study showed that al­most 100 per cent of the water-sol­u­ble vi­ta­mins were re­tained when the broc­coli was in­stead steamed for five min­utes.

The fat-sol­u­ble vi­ta­mins (vi­ta­mins A,D, E and K), on the other hand, are un­af­fected by heat or water. These vi­ta­mins are ab­sorbed into the oil of stir-fries or salad dress­ings, but that’s not a prob­lem as you will be con­sum­ing these.

Vi­ta­min E is, how­ever, af­fected by light and air. It is in many dried herbs, which is one rea­son why they should be stored in low light in air­tight con­tain­ers.

Vi­ta­min K, which is found in co­rian­der, sage, thyme, chives, mar­jo­ram and pars­ley as well as dried and fresh basil, is af­fected by light too.

Vi­ta­min C is also af­fected by ex­po­sure to air, which is why lev­els are of­ten higher in frozen veg­eta­bles than fresh ones, which can de­grade while in stor­age. Frozen veg­eta­bles are pro­cessed quickly af­ter har­vest­ing, so they re­tain a good deal of their nu­tri­ents.

Min­er­als are not af­fected by heat but they do leach out into the cook­ing water. When mak­ing an in­fu­sion, or a herbal tea, for medic­i­nal pur­poses, you will get all the min­er­als from that herb in the water. You will also get most of the water-sol­u­ble vi­ta­mins, but not the fat-sol­u­ble ones.

Chop herbs with a mez­za­luna, sharp knife or scis­sors. Use a food pro­ces­sor for large amounts.

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