Effects of Food Processing on Food Nutrition

Freezing, Drying, Cooking, and Reheating

Nearly every food preparation process reduces the number of nutrients in food. In particular, processes that expose foods to high levels of heat, light, and/or oxygen cause the greatest nutrient loss. Nutrients can also be “washed out” of foods by fluids that are introduced during a cooking process. For example, boiling a potato can cause much of the potato’s B and C vitamins to migrate to the boiling water. You’ll still benefit from those nutrients if you consume the liquid (i.e. if the potato and water are being turned into potato soup), but not if you throw away the liquid. Similar losses also occur when you broil, roast, or fry in oil, and then drain off the drippings.

Consuming raw foods

The amount of nutrient loss caused by cooking has encouraged some health-conscious consumers to eat more raw foods. In general, this is a positive step. However, cooking is also beneficial, because it kills potentially harmful microorganisms that are present in the food supply. In particular, poultry and ground meats (e.g. hamburgers) should always be thoroughly cooked, and the surface of all fruits and vegetables should be carefully washed before eating.

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Grilling meats

Outdoor grilling is a popular cooking method, primarily because of the wonderful taste it imparts on meats. It can also be a healthy alternative to other cooking methods because some of the meat’s saturated fat content is reduced by the grilling process. However, grilling also presents a health risk. Two separate types of carcinogenic compounds are produced by high-temperature grilling.

Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs)

HCAs form when meat is directly exposed to a flame or very high-temperature surface. The creatine-rich meat juices react with the heat to form various HCAs, including amino-imidazole-quinolines, amino-imidazole-quinoxalines, amino-imidazopyridines, and aminocarbolines. HCAs have been shown to cause DNA mutation and may be a factor in the development of certain cancers.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

PAHs form in smoke that’s produced when fat from the meat ignites or drips on the hot coals of the grill. Various PAHs present in the resulting smoke, including benzo[a]pyrene and dibenzo[a,h]anthracene, adhere to the outside surface of the grilled meat. PAH exposure is also believed to be linked to certain cancers.

Effect of Food Processing on Vitamins and Minerals

The freshness, appearance, and nutritive value of foods change when they are stored for a long time. People in the food industry work for procedures that make the foods retain their nutritive value even after a long time. The conversion of raw food materials into an acceptable food product by a variety of means is referred to as food processing. The techniques followed include dehydration, freezing, heating at high temperatures, exposure to radiation (i.e. irradiation), fermentation, chemical preservation etc.

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