How Cooking Fruit Affects Its Nutritional Value, From RDs
Stewed apples and fruit-filled muffins in the fall, cherry crisps in the summer, and everything in between—cooked fruit is a baking staple. But does cooking those fruits down deplete their nutrients? (Say it isn't so!) We chatted with a few registered dietitians to find out.
Does cooking fruit deplete its nutrients?
Spoiler: Cooking fruit can decrease nutrients. That said, just how much depends on the cooking method and the fruit itself.
"Boiling and pressure cooking degrades more nutrients than other cooking methods," women's health dietitian Valerie Agyeman, R.D., tells mbg. When boiling fruit, the nutrients (mainly soluble fiber) can leach into the water. That means it's not totally wasted—Agyeman recommends keeping the excess liquid for canning or other recipes that call for water.
While certain nutrients (like vitamin C) are lost in this process, others (like lycopene) become more bioavailable. "So it's more productive to eat a variety of fruit in different forms than to worry about cooking them once in a while," registered dietitian Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D., says. "Some data suggests that many nutrients are well-retained even when fruit is baked, broiled, sautéed, or stewed."
Which fruits stand up better to cooking?
Certain fruits, and even different parts of the same fruit, stand up better to heat and can maintain their vitamins and minerals. "Apples are a decent source of vitamin C, which does not survive well when cooked," Moon says. "It degrades when exposed to heat, light, and oxygen."
That said, apple skins are high in fiber and antioxidant flavonoid, which do survive well under heat. "Peeling apples will do far more to deplete those nutrients than baking," Moon says.
Additionally, vitamins A, E, and K are all better at maintaining their nutrient content when exposed to heat than other vitamins, according to Moon. Other fruits include:
- Vitamin A: mango, pink or red grapefruit, cantaloupe, watermelon
- Vitamin E: avocado, blackberries
- Vitamin K: kiwi, prunes
What to make with cooked fruit.
So you have fresh produce and you're craving a warm treat? Agyeman recommends making a fall fruit bake with pears, cinnamon, ginger, and pecans.
If you've just gone apple picking, behavioral nutritionist and registered dietitian Rachel Paul, R.D., Ph.D., says to make a simple, single-serving apple crisp. And for a taste of summer, Moon makes a blueberry crumble. Both recipes are below:
1. Microwave 1 cubed apple and 2 tsp. butter for 1 minute.
2. Add in ½ tsp. cinnamon, ½ tsp. pumpkin pie seasoning, and ¼ tsp. vanilla.
3. Microwave for another 30 seconds.
1. Mix berries with a little whole wheat flour, lemon zest, and lemon juice for thickening.
2. Mix whole-grain oatmeal, chopped nuts, baking spices, avocado oil, and a pinch of brown sugar and salt.
3. Top the berry mixture with the oatmeal mixture.
4. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes at 350°F.
Just keep in mind, "peeling the fruit, and adding sugar, solid fats, and refined grain all contribute much more to reducing a fruit dish's nutritional value than cooking does," Moon says. Keeping moderation in mind while enjoying these desserts is key.
Even though some nutritional value may be lost in the fruit-cooking process, Paul says it's nothing to lose sleep over. "What's most important is to focus on eating adequate amounts of produce daily, no matter the form."