How does cooking affect the nutrients in meat?

Rotisserie chickenKate writes:

“I’m concerned about cooking the nutrients out of my food. There is plenty of information about fruits and veggies but what about meat? What is the best way to cook common meats to preserve the nutrition? Thanks!”

Good news, Kate! The primary nutrients in meat (protein and minerals) are pretty resilient to heat, so cooking meat does little to reduce its nutritional value.  Some of the fat may render out of the meat as it cooks but most people consider this to be a plus. If you’re cooking meat in liquid (as in a stew or soup), some of the minerals and protein may leach from the meat into the cooking liquid. But if you consume the broth, little will be lost.

The vitamins and antioxidants in fresh fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, are a little more fragile–and that’s why you’ve probably seen more about the effect of cooking on the nutritional value of these foods. But you don’t have to cook a vegetable to reduce its nutritional value. Washing, freezing, drying, and even just storing fresh produce can reduce the levels of certain nutrients.

That said, I think that many of us worry way too much about “cooking the nutrients out of our food”–because this implies that we’re actually cooking!

Fresh, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and meats, are nutrient-dense foods–especially compared to highly processed foods. When you’re cooking meals from real ingredients, you are already way ahead of the game.  And even if some nutrients are lost during preparation, there are still plenty left!

When we recommend that you eat five servings of vegetables every day in order to meet your nutritional needs, for example, we assume that at least some of those vegetables are going to be cooked or–gasp–even canned! And we take that into account when estimating how much you need to eat in order to be well-nourished.

The way I see it, the most nutritious way to prepare your vegetables is the way you like to eat them best–because you’re likely to eat more of them that way.

5 thoughts on “How does cooking affect the nutrients in meat?

  1. Love your show, Monica! Can you tell us what “bone broth” is and all about it? Also I am interested in knowing more about the differences between fresh food, frozen food, and canned food.

      1. That was perfect and I really like the ones where you read them yourself.
        This also brought to mind that I am curious about “organ meats”. Is eating heart/liver super good for us and what is that all about?

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