Does Cooking Change the Nutrient Profile in Foods?

By Angela Feng, UC Davis Healthy Aggies Intern

This question has always been a mystery to me, and I’m sure many can relate. What happens when you cook food? Is there a specific cooking method preferred over the other?

Well, you’re in luck today! Because I will be diving into the cooking processes and how it affects the nutrient content of foods.

Boiling, Simmering, and Poaching

Water-based cooking consists of boiling, simmering, and poaching. Vitamin C is prone to lose its content when cooked in water because it’s water-soluble. Water-soluble means that it is able to dissolve in water. For example, broccoli, spinach, and lettuce may lose more than 50% of their vitamin C content when boiled.


Nutrients are more likely to be preserved in microwaved foods due to their short cooking times. 20-30% of Vitamin C in green vegetables is lost during microwaving. However, it is less than the majority of cooking methods.

Roasting and Baking

There is not a significant effect on vitamins and minerals when foods are roasted and baked in an oven with dry heat. B vitamins can lose their content up to 40% if meats are roasted for a long time at high temperatures.

Sautéing and Stir-frying

Sautéing and stir-frying on high heat with a small amount of oil improves the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K because these vitamins break down in fats. However, stir-frying has been shown to lower the vitamin C content in broccoli and red cabbage.


Not all foods are appropriate for frying, so it’s important to be mindful of the oils being used and to minimize reheating the oil. Frying can preserve vitamin C and B in potatoes. However, frying tuna has resulted in degraded omega-3 content up to 70-85%.


Steaming is one of the best cooking methods for maintaining nutrients. It has been found that steaming broccoli, spinach, and lettuce reduces their vitamin C content by only 9–15%.

Now that we have learned about the different cooking methods and their different effects on foods, let’s switch gears and talk about how to maximize nutrient retention during cooking!

Here are some simple tips:

  1. Use a small amount of water when cooking to reduce the loss of vitamin C and B
  2. Consume the liquid leftover from cooking vegetables
  3. Cut food after cooking, rather than before, because foods are less exposed to heat and water when cooked whole
  4. Cook vegetables for only a few minutes
  5. Don’t peel vegetables before or after cooking. The peel has lots of nutrients like fiber!

Source: Healthline,

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