Your mother might be right all along in covering her pan while cooking as the practice has been hailed by ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) in its recently released guidelines. According to the medical research body, closed-lid cooking not only saves your time, but can also help in better retention of the nutrients. Open-lid cooking on the other hand may take longer time and also accelerate nutrient loss. (Also read: ICMR says labels could be misleading: ‘Sugar-free foods could have hidden sugars’)

“In open lid cooking, food takes a longer time to get cooked and exposure to air accelerates nutrient loss…” says ICMR(Freepik)

“In open lid cooking, food takes a longer time to get cooked and exposure to air accelerates nutrient loss. While in closed-lid cooking, food gets cooked quickly and nutrients are better retained because of the shorter cooking time. Green vegetables and green leafy vegetables change colour during closed lid cooking but minimise nutrient loss,” read ICMR guidelines. (Also read | ICMR says added sugar may be completely eliminated from diet: ‘It adds no nutritive value other than calories’)

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Why cooking food properly is important

Cooking is important to improve digestibility of foods and make them more palatable, improving their taste, appearance and texture. It also helps in making certain nutrients more available to the body. Cooking also kills microbes and reduces risk of food contamination. (Also read: Is rock salt as harmful as table salt? ICMR urges to restrict intake of all salts, as sodium content in them is similar)

Healthy cooking methods

According to ICMR, cooking methods like pressure cooking or steam cooking must be preferred to deep frying or roasting as they may lead to lower nutrient loss. The guidelines say steaming is the best cooking method to increase the level of both antioxidants and polyphenols in vegetables and greens. (Also read: ICMR suggests giving mashed dals to infants instead of ‘dal kaa pani’; shares list of complementary foods)

“Boiling or pressure cooking is the best way to improve the nutritional quality of pulses since anti-nutritional factors are destroyed during boiling and pressure cooking,” says ICMR. (Also read: ICMR advises people to go for whole spices in new guidelines: ‘Powdered spices are more likely to be adulterated’)

Is microwave cooking good for retaining nutrients?

ICMR says microwaving food takes very little water and steams food from inside-out. This method retains more vitamins and minerals than any other cooking method as there is no leaching of nutrients.

“Further, as the cooking time in microwave is shorter, it helps preserve vitamin and other nutrients that break down when heated,” read the guidelines.