The effect of cooking on the phytochemical content of vegetables
Cooking induces many chemical and physical modifications in foods; among these the phytochemical content can change. Many authors have studied variations in vegetable nutrients after cooking, and great variability in the data has been reported. In this review more than 100 articles from indexed scientific journals were considered in order to assess the effect of cooking on different phytochemical classes. Changes in phytochemicals upon cooking may result from two opposite phenomena: (1) thermal degradation, which reduces their concentration, and (2) a matrix softening effect, which increases the extractability of phytochemicals, resulting in a higher concentration with respect to the raw material. The final effect of cooking on phytochemical concentration depends on the processing parameters, the structure of food matrix, and the chemical nature of the specific compound. Looking at the different cooking procedures it can be concluded that steaming will ensure better preservation/extraction yield of phenols and glucosinolates than do other cooking methods: steamed tissues are not in direct contact with the cooking material (water or oil) so leaching of soluble compounds into water is minimised and, at the same time, thermal degradation is limited. Carotenoids showed a different behaviour; a positive effect on extraction and the solubilisation of carotenes were reported after severe processing.