Two of the most-commonly eaten and cooked vegetables in Nigeria are Celosia argentea var. argentea or Lagos spinach (Efo Soko) and Amaranthus hybridus (Efo Tete). These vegetables are very rich in nutrients and they do a lot in our body.
For example, 100g edible portion of Celosia argentea contains; water 83.8g, energy 185KJ (44kcal), protein 4.7g, fat 0.7g, Carbohydrate 7.3g, fibre 1.8g, Ca 260mg, P 43mg, Fe 7.8mg. This vegetable also contains micronutrients and is especially rich in Iron, vitamin A and Vitamin C. It also contains phytic acid. These figures are telling us that this vegetable is very rich in important vitamins and minerals.
The benefits of eating vegetable with these nutrients
Calcium is essential for blood clotting and well stabilizing blood pressure. It contributes to normal brain function and it is critical for communicating essential information among cells. Calcium is needed in our body for the release of chemicals that transmit a signal from a nerve cell to a target cell (e.g., when a nerve tells a muscle to move). Many people may not even know that calcium helps in reproduction/fertilization by assisting the movement of sperm into an egg to fertilize the egg.
I am not going to talk about what each and every one of these nutrients do in the body as that is beyond the scope of this topic. The benefits above are just those we derive from consumption of Calcium alone; and Calcium is just one of the nutrients available in vegetables.
These vegetables, Celosia (Efo Soko) and Amaranthus (Efo Tete) are very rich in minerals and some vitamins and we eat them a lot. The unfortunate part is that we don’t get these nutrients by the time we eat them – that is the case in this part of the world. Why is that?
Why we lose all nutrients in vegetables
Vegetables such as Celosia and Amaranthus are not to be overcooked but that is exactly how we cook them. Some of the nutrients listed above here are heat-labile (lost when subjected to high temperature), so overcooking them means they are gone before they even get to your table.
Boiling vegetables in water at high temperature is not a good practice, nutrients are lost in the cooking water and since you are not going drink the water, the nutrients are wasted.
How Should Vegetable Be Prepared?
If you want to cook Celosia and Amaranthus, the best practice it to boil your water and pour on your vegetable just to blanch it. This will kill many microorganisms on the vegetable, inactivate enzymes that could cause spoilage and soften it to make it edible.
If you want to add your vegetables to pepper, tomatoes and onions, make the stew separately and add your blanched vegetable to the stew. Mix them together and you would notice it even tastes better than the one you overcook.
This is the best way to enjoy the taste and nutrients in your vegetable. If you cannot prepare it this way…why don’t you just stop eating vegetables totally? Am I angry? Yes, I hate when people overcook vegetables.