Nowadays, many people are switching to plant-based diets like vegan and vegetarian diets mainly due to their health benefits. Generally, foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds contain higher amounts of nutrients than many animal-based food products. However, some of the nutrients in plant-based food like minerals are not easily absorbed by the body due to the presence of anti-nutrients. But this can be avoided to a certain extent by processing the food. In this article, we will discuss in detail different methods for preparing plant-based food; read ahead to know more about them.
What Is plant-based food preparation?
Traditionally, different methods have been used for preparing plant-based food. Some of them are cooking, cutting, soaking, grinding, fermentation, etc. These methods help to release nutrients trapped within the cell walls of fruits and vegetables or remove the antinutrients so that the nutrients can be easily absorbed. Due to this, micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are readily available to the body.
Vegans must give special attention to plant-based food preparation methods as they have an increased risk for developing deficiency diseases. Also, you must know that improper preparation of food is one of the leading causes of malnutrition in resource-poor communities.
Shared below are different methods of plant-based food preparation.
Thermal processing, which is commonly known as cooking, involves the application of heat to food. This increases the bioavailability of nutrients like iodine, thiamine, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, and carotenoids. Apart from this, heat also degrades phytates to a certain extent; it is an antinutrient that inhibits the absorption of minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc.
Some of the common methods of mechanical processing of plant-based food are pounding, grinding, cutting, chopping, crushing, etc. For example, the pounding of cereals removes the bran and germ of whole grains. This reduces the content of antinutrient phytate, which is found in the germ of maize, and the aleurone layer of rice, wheat, and sorghum. Due to this, the bioavailability of minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc is increased.
Cutting, chopping, or crushing fruits and vegetables releases the nutrients trapped in the plant matrix. For example, the beneficial compound allicin found in garlic is released or activated when you crush, slice, mince, or chew cloves of garlic. Likewise, mechanical processing improves the bioavailability of carotenoids, which are converted to vitamin A by the body.
Soaking or leaching helps to remove phytates from cereals and legumes. The extent of removal depends on the length of soaking, plant species, and pH. To a lesser degree, it also removes other antinutrients like oxalates and polyphenols.
Usually, a combination of these plant-based food preparation methods is often used.