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Microwave Cooking Zaps the Nutrients

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PARIS, Oct 22 (AFP) - Cooking by microwave is the worst way to preserve a key nutrient in vegetables, while steaming is the best, according to a Spanish study reported in next Saturday's New Scientist.

Researchers from the national scientific research council CEBAS-CSIC measured antioxidants, a compound believed to protect cells from damaging reactive chemicals called free radicals, in broccoli that had been either steamed, pressure-cooked, boiled or microwaved.

Steaming the veggies left the antioxidants almost untouched, but microwaving virtually eliminated them, probably because this heated the broccoli from inside and generated too high a temperature.

The other cooking methods performed somewhere between the two.

They did not destroy as many antioxidants as microwaving, but lots of the precious compounds leached out into the water during cooking, leaving less than half of the original amount of antioxidants in the vegetable.

In another study also reported in New Scientist, experts at VTT Technology in Espoo, Finland found that blanching vegetables before freezing them slashed levels of antioxidants by as much as a third.

Blanching vegetables -- briefly scalding them with boiling water -- is commonly used by frozen food companies to inactivate enzymes that could affect flavour.

The two studies are published in full in a specialist review, Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

Free radicals have been fingered as a possible culprit for cancer and other degenerative diseases, inflicting changes in a cell's DNA that are then replicated when the cell divides.



COPYRIGHT 2003 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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