Food Engineering and Bioprocess Technology School of Environment, Resources and Development Asian Institute of Technology Thailand
Vegetable usually means an edible plant or part of a plant other than a sweet fruit or seed. This usually means the leaf, stem, or root of a plant [1]. Most vegetables contain at least 60% of water and usually more than 80%. It has limited sources of macronutrients but richest source of micronutrients [2]. There is a need to include green vegetables often in the regular diet in a form that is easily assimilable by the body, when the nutrients can be extracted from the tough fiber of vegetables. Increasing the intake of green-leafy vegetables is very important for several reasons. It contains more vitamins (A, C, E) than other vegetables and grains such as carrot, oranges, whole wheat and provides enough minerals in the diet. They also contain quality proteins with a good amino acid profile. Green vegetables provide essential alkaline minerals such as calcium and magnesium that are found in insufficient quantities in fruit, nuts and seeds. Beans, broccoli, cabbage, artichoke, chard, collards, cucumber, lettuce, okra, spinach etc. comes under green


vegetables. The green color of leafy vegetables is due to the presence of the green pigment chlorophyll. Consuming green leafy vegetables everyday decreases the risk of diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, heart diseases, etc. Nutritional value of vegetables are numerous but these vegetables when they are exposed to processing, heat treatment and cooking, the nutritional value of these vegetables will be changed and sometimes it can also be destroyed. In this report the nutrient content of various processed and treated green vegetables are discussed. In some cases the nutrient content of processed vegetables has been reported as being greater than that of fresh (raw) vegetables. It was found that the processing and heat treatment has both positive and negative effects on the nutrient content of vegetables depending upon differences in process conditions and morphological and nutritional characteristics of vegetable species.

Nutritional benefits of Green vegetables
Green vegetables comprise of all the important nutrients that are required for a healthy diet. Some essential components include potassium, iron, folic acid and certain phytochemicals or Phytonutrients. Phytochemicals are substances that are naturally found in the vegetables. . Some of the most known phytonutrients are flavanoids, carotenoids, lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene etc. These are important for the proper functioning of the body, some of which have been claimed to have antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anticarcinogenic properties. Vegetables are the main source for fiber. Fiber comes in two forms, one is the soluble fiber while the other is the insoluble one. A high fiber diet helps in cleansing the digestive tract and preventing constipation. Vegetables provide vitamins A, C, E, K, as well as folate, which is a type of Vitamin B required for growth of cells in the body. Vegetables acquire mineral from the soil on which they are grown. Minerals that are mainly found in vegetables include iron, potassium, calcium, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, etc. which are essential for the overall functioning of the body. The contents of selected vitamins in raw vegetables are listed in the (table 1) below. VITAMIN COMPOSITION OF RAW VEGETABLES


Vit.A Thiamin Vegetable Asparagus Broccoli okra Peas Turnip Spinach Bean snap Bean lima (IU) 897 1542 660 640 7600 6715 668 303 (mg) 0.11 0.06 0.2 0.26 0.07 0.08 0.08 0.22

Riboflavin (mg) 0.12 0.12 0.06 0.13 0.1 0.19 0.1 0.1

Niacin Vit.C Vit.B6 Vit.B5 Folacin (mg) 1.1 0.6 1 2.1 0.6 0.7 0.8 1.5 (mg) 33 93 21 40 60 28 16 23 (mg) 0.15 0.16 0.22 0.17 0.26 0.2 0.07 0.2 (mg) 0.17 0.54 0.24 0.1 0.38 0.06 0.09 0.25 (mg) 119 71 88 65 194 194 36 -

The above tabular column shows that the Turnip, soya beans are rich in Vit.A, thiamin and riboflavin respectively. Peas are rich in Vit.A & niacin and broccoli is very rich in Vit. A, Vit.C and folacin. The green leafy vegetables are also high in beta-carotene (pro vitamin A) and ascorbic acid but the yellow ones are high only in beta-carotene.

The mineral composition of raw vegetables are listed below (Table 2)


Ca Vegetable Asparagus Broccoli okra Peas Bean snap (IU) 22 48 81 25 37

Fe (mg) 0.7 0 0.8 1.5 1

Mg (mg) 18 25 57 33 25

P (mg) 52 66 63 108 38

K (mg) 302 325 303 244 209

Mn (mg) 0.21 0.23 0.99 0.41 0.21

Zn (mg) 0.7 0.4 0.6 1.24 0.24

Cu (mg) 0.15 0.04 0.09 0.18 0.07


Bean lima Turnip Spinach

34 30 197

3.1 0.3 3.6

58 11 -

136 27 194

467 191 -

1.22 67 -

0.78 -

0.32 -

Minerals that occur in tiny amounts or traces are very essential for the proper functioning of the body. Green vegetables such as lima beans, soy beans and spinach are good sources of iron. Calcium is present in moderate amounts in turnip greens, soy beans, parsley, Chinese cabbage etc. The Proximate composition of raw vegetables are listed below (Table 3),

PROXIMATE COMPOSITION OF RAW VEGETABLES Food energy Vegetable Kcal Asparagus 22 Broccoli okra Peas Turnip Spinach 28 38 81 27 22 Moisture Protein Fat Carbohydrates Fiber (g) 92.2 90.7 89.6 78.9 91.1 91.6 90.3 70.2 (g) 3.1 3 2 5.4 1.5 2.9 1.8 6.8 (g) 0.2 0.4 0.1 0.4 0.3 0.4 0.1 0.7 (g) 3.7 5.2 7.6 14.5 5.7 3.5 7.1 20.2 (g) 0.8 1.1 0.9 2.2 0.8 0.9 1.1 1.9

Bean snap 31 Bean lima 113

Vegetables, with the primary exception of legumes, are not especially good sources of proteins. Typically, the protein content of vegetables is only 1-2%. However, the immature seeds of legumes may be as much as 14% protein and the mature dry seeds even higher. Green leafy vegetables are beneficial for having a good eye sight, healthy looking skin and also to control weight gain. Lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids found in dark-green leafy vegetables, are concentrated in the eye lens and macular region of the retina, and play a protective role in the


eye. They protect against both cataract and age-related macular degeneration, the major cause of blindness in the elderly. Though the nutritional value of vegetable is numerous, not every vegetable contains all the nutrients. Due to this it became extremely important to inculcate all the different types of vegetables in one¶s diet. But in case of broccoli it contains almost all nutrients so consuming broccoli everyday gives higher nutrient content, vitamins and minerals than any other vegetable. Broccoli is an excellent source of immune-supportive vitamin C, antiinflammatory vitamin K, free-radical-scavenging vitamin A (through its concentration of carotenoid phytonutrients), heart-healthy folate, and digestive-health-supporting fiber. It is a very good source of enzyme-activating manganese; muscular-system-supporting potassium, protein, and magnesium; energy-producing vitamin B2, vitamin B6, and phosphorus; and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, it is a good source of energy-producing vitamin B1, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, and iron, bone-healthy calcium, and immune-supportive zinc and vitamin E. Broccoli is also concentrated in phytonutrients. The isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from broccoli's glucosinolates are the key to broccoli's cancer-preventive benefits. Next to nutritional effects, the pigments are necessary for the colour formation in vegetables. The loss of green colour, is one of the main factors in quality deterioration. The most important pigments in vegetables are chlorophyll and carotenoids. The carotenoids are responsible for the yellow colour of vegetables and chlorophyll is responsible for the green colour of vegetables. Chlorophyll is a coordination compound between magnesium and the tetra-pyrrole ring. The stability of the coordination complex is directly related to the stability of the green colour vegetables. chlorophyll exists as chlorophyll a and b. Chlorophyll a is the major component of the chlorophylls found in vegetables. Vegetables also contain some organic acids such as citric, malic and oxalic acids are the predominant acids found in vegetables. Aside from their influence on the taste of vegetables, organic acids can have an effect on the packaging of processed products. For example, acetic and lactic acids are known to promote the pitting of tin plate in canned vegetables. Oxalic acid is aggressive toward enamel-coated plate tin plate, helping to promote the lifting of enamel from the metal. The aromatic acids and polyphenols contribute to the colouration or discolouration of canned vegetables by forming co-ordination complexes with dissolved tin or iron. An example is the iron-rutin complex associated with black discolouration of canned asparagus.


The organic acid content of green vegetables varies with maturity and cultivar. Wagner and porter (1973) [3] reported that citric acid content of all cultivars of peas showed a rise and fall with advancing maturity. Lactic acid and succinic acid are known to increase in concentration with increasing microbial action. The green vegetables also contain aromatic acids such as benzoic, caffeic, cinnamic, chlorogenic, quinic and shikimic, etc. Baranowski and naegel (1982)

have evaluated the effectiveness of hydroxycinnamic acids as anti microbial agents.

Phytic acid content of food is important because of the role phytic acid and phytates play in nutrition and in the processing of foods. The acid is strongly binds di- and trivalent cations like zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Phytic acid is found almost exclusively in plants, with the highest concentration usually associated with seeds. The percentage of total phosphorous content that can be attributed to phytic acid. Because of the strong affinity of phytic acid for calcium and zinc, among other cations, the bio availability of these minerals can be diminished by high concentrations of phytic acid in the diet. Phytic acid appears to aid in the cooking and processing of dry beans, but the nutritional quality of the total diet is improved when the phytic acid content is minimized.

Thermal processing
Most vegetables are commonly processed and cooked before being consumed. For most vegetables, cooking & processing is essential in transforming the product in to an edible, nutritious food [2]. Types of thermal processing 1. Cooking: Boiling Pressure cooking Steaming Frying Backing Microwave


2. Blanching: Water at 1000 C (2-3 min) Steam (1-2 min) Microwave 3. Canning: Heat and pressure 4. Drying: Sun drying Mechanical drying

Need for thermal processing
1. To render the produce edible 2. To reduce the content of plant toxins and 3. To preserve the produce ± that is, to prevent spoilage due to autolysis or microbial attack. Edibility Some parts of plants are very hard to digest by our body. So, cooking and processing are very essential to make the food edible. The application of heat, usually cooking is the most common form of processing. It fulfills all the objectives of processing. Heat application in an aqueous medium (boiling, pressure cooking), in oil (frying) or by microwave is used so as to hydrolyse and depolymerize the hemicelluloses and the protopectins present in plant.In addition, the heat treatment(cooking) makes the cells lose its water and leaches the nutrients, lectins and other components, so that the cell wall become permeable & soluble. In frying and microwaving, hydrolysis occurs which affects the water content of the vegetables so that the final product has a better texture, flavor and taste. Reduction of toxins Plants produce a variety of toxins, probably for defending against insect and pests. In addition they contain compounds that are the parts of normal plant chemistry but they are potentially toxic to humans. Examples are the phenolic and cyanogenetic glycosides. These toxic compounds are destroyed or leached by heat processing.


Preservation Vegetables spoilage is due to two distinct processes: y y Autolysis- The digestion of food by enzymes present within the tissues. Microbial attack- the invasion of microbes (bacteria or fungi).

So there is a need for preservation. The natures of these processes dictate the actions required to protect the vegetables. And the preservation processes depend on 1) Reduced enzyme activity, either by heat denaturation of protein or by chilling 2) Exclusion of water, by osmosis or freezing or drying (one kind of heat treatment) 3) Reduction of pH (Irradiation & Atmosphere control).

Beneficial effects
It has been a common misconception that fresh vegetables are nutritionally superior to processed vegetables. Some of these misperceptions were due to erroneous comparisons made between raw produce and processed, essentially ready to eat products. The enhancement in nutrient content of vegetables & beneficial effects after the processing and heat treatment is discussed below.

In vitamins It has been reported that the nutrient content of processed spinach has been reported as being greater than that of fresh spinach (i.e) the carotene content of frozen and canned spinach was 60% higher than that of the fresh product

It was found that blanching and processing

produced relatively little change in the carotene content of peas (i.e) the carotene content of processed peas was slightly higher than raw peas (Lee et al.,1982) [6]. It was reported that the total carotenoid fraction of canned carrots and spinach was greater than that of the raw vegetables. Regarding thiamine it¶s a relatively unstable vitamin and it can be easily destroyed by heat, oxygen and pH values of 7 or higher. As a water soluble vitamin, it can be lost during blanching and canning operations but it was found that thiamin retention in


strained lima beans can be increased from app.60% to more than 80% by use of aseptic canning methods. It was also found that riboflavin is relatively stable during processing of asparagus, green bean, and spinach. Lee et al found better retention of vitamin B6 in peas after blanching. From lima beans, (Raab et al)

found no loss of vit. B6 during heat processing. Benteurd


reported that 80-100% of

ascorbic acid was retained in canned asparagus, in canned green beans 40-75% and 75-95% in 58 canned apricots. In Minerals Minerals are not destroyed by thermal processing, but losses through leaching in to processing water can occur (Bender 1960) [9]. Proteins, carbohydrates and fibers Typically, the protein content of vegetables is only 1-2%. However, the immature seeds of legumes may be as much as 14% protein and the mature dry seeds even higher. It had been found the glucose content of carrot and broad beans retained after cooking, and also even the sucrose content of some vegetables increases with cooking (Martin-Villa et al.1982)

It is postulated

that sucrose is formed from the combination of glucose and fructose during cooking. The polysaccharide substances cellulose and hemi cellulose along with pectin and lignin contribute to the fiber contents of the vegetables. It was reported that cooking generally increases the neutral detergent fiber (NDF), acid detergent fiber (ADF), and cellulose content on a dry weight basis (Herranz et al., 1983) [11] . Van buren (1979)

reported that cooking does not

affect pectic substances. Neutral sugars were not affected except to increase their solubility. Hemi cellulose and cellulose fractions were little affected, and lignin changes are small (Anderson and Clydesdale, 1980) [13]. Mabesa et al.,(1979) [14] showed that cooking increases the citric acid content of peas. Lin et al., (1971) concentration during storage of spinach puree. Phytates

reported that fumaric acid increases in


Phytates play important role in cooking quality of legumes. Kon and sanshuck(1981)


found that an increase in the phytic acid content of beans co-related with a decrease in cooking time. Cooking asparagus was found to increase total phenols by 23% (Fanasca et al., 2009)

The results also indicated that the effect of cooking process was significant and more pronounced than the effect of cultivars. Pigments The blanching of vegetables helps to maintain the colour of green vegetables by inactivating enzymes, such as peroxidase, lipases and lipo oxigenases that convert chlorophyll to pheophytins. One way to help stabilize chlorophyll in processed vegetable is to maintain an alkaline pH during blanching and to reduce the loss of magnesium by maintaining a high concentration of magnesium in the environment. This was the basis for the use of magnesium carbonate in the Blair process for peas. Recently, this process helps been updated by incorporating a magnesium salt in to the organic coating of cans to be used for green vegetables. Toxicants Plants produce some toxic substances to repel insects and microorganisms. The potato glycoalkaloids solanine and chaonine are typical of the toxic compounds produced by plants to defend themselves against attack by insects. Some phenolic compounds are also toxic such as the tannins are so astringent that they bind with proteins and starches and reduce the bio availability of these nutrients so cooking destroys large amounts of the tannins present in pulses (Rao & Deosthale 1982)

Phytohaemagglutinins that cause clumping and destruction of red cells

occur predominantly in beans. Some of this compound is also toxic to the cells of the intestinal mucosa. They are normally destroyed by soaking the beans overnight followed by thorough cooking. Glucosinolates (sulphur compounds) occur in brassica (cabbage & turnips, etc..) which can cause goitre. Pesticide content Bognar (1977)

showed that up to 82% of the dimethoate in French beans and

cauliflower was eliminated by processing. It was also found that residues of diazinon were


reduced by up to 77% as a result of processing. Farrow et al. (1969)


found that washing

removed 80% of the diazinon from Chinese cabbage. Hot water blanches was able to remove 60% of the residues from spinach. The same author reported that up to 97% of the carbaryl residues could be removed from spinach and broccoli by washing. When washing was combined with a hot water blanch, nearly all of the carbaryl was removed. Hot water blanching removed 58% DDT residue from spinach and 50% from green beans.

Detrimental effects
It has been discussed that heating (cooking) and processing are very essential for various purposes. However, it was found that cooking & processing lead to reductions in the nutrient contents & antioxidant capacity for most vegetables (Faller and Fialho, 2009) [21]. Many nutrients can be lost from food when the food surface comes into direct contact with water. In many cases, cooking & processing induces significant changes in chemical composition, influencing the concentration and bioavailability of bioactive compounds in vegetables[22].Cooking and vegetable processing such as blanching, canning, sterilizing and drying, etc is expected to affect the yield, composition and some nutritional antioxidants

(e.g. heat labile vitamin C).Heat

treatment and processing also affects the texture and colour of vegetables. During vegetable processing, qualitative changes, antioxidant breakdown and their leaching into surrounding water may influence the antioxidant activity of the vegetables (Podsedek, 2007) [24]. Some antioxidant compounds like ascorbic acid and carotenoids are very sensitive to heat and storage and are lost during different vegetable processing steps (Zhang, et al, 2004) [25]. In vitamins Losses during blanching and overall processing vary from vegetable to vegetable and for different vitamins. In general, higher storage temperatures tend to increase losses of thiamine, riboflavin and ascorbic acid. Lee et al. (1982) Van Buren et al. (1982)

reported that peas lost less than 4% of their

thiamin content during blanching, but an additional 34% loss after heat processing. Similarly,

reported that 90% of thiamin in snap beans was retained after

blanching, but only 68% of that was present after retorting. Losses of 20-30% vitamin A activity


may be associated with heat processing but the increased digestibility of carotinoids as a result of processing may improve the nutritional vitamin A value of some canned vegetables (Bentrud 1977)

Van Buren et al. (1982)


demonstrated that 58% of vitamin B6 in snap beans is

retained during blanching and 34% after retorting. Dudek et al. (1980) [27] reported a 10-15% loss of vitamin B6 in water blanched bean, a 5-8% loss in steam blanched beans and 15-20% loss in water soaked retorted bean. Dudek et al. (1980)

reported that blanched frozen peas contained 69% of pantothenic acid of

raw peas while drained canned peas contained only 30%. Folacin was retained better than pantothenic acid; 85% of the folacin was retained in drain canned peas. Vitamin C is relatively unstable to heat, oxygen and light. The retention of vitamin C is used often as an indication of the quality of processed foods. If the ascorbic acid is retained well, other nutrients also will be retained well (Bender 1966)

Kenny (1978)[28] estimated that the

blanching step causes a loss of 25% of the ascorbic acid due to leaching of vitamin into the blanched water. Thermal processing causes additional loss of ascorbic acid due to leaching and oxidation. Bebterud (1977)

found that only 40-75% of ascorbic acid was retained in canned

green beans. Lee et al. (1982) [6] reported that only 58% of the ascorbic acid of peas was retained after processing. In minerals Odland and Eheart (1975)

reported that water blanching of broccoli reduced the phosphorus

and potassium content more than steam blanching did. Schimitt and Weaver (1982)


that chromium and Zinc are loosed during canning of bush bean and kale. Mineral losses were most severe in canned products that were drained before analysis. Proteins, carbohydrates and fibers Protein may react with reducing sugars, rendering them nutritionally unavailable. Peroxides formed during lipid oxidation also react with protein and vitamins, making them biologically inactive. Threonine and lysine are the most thermo liable of the essential amino acids. It has long been known that proteins inhibit the action of certain mammalian enzymes. Trypsin inhibitor is


found from lima bean, Kidney bean, peas, and potatoes (Pressey, 1972)


Trypsin inhibitor is

inactivated by heating. When whole bean is autoclaved, 98% decreased in activity is reached in 10 minutes. Meredith et al (1974)

found that 35% isoleucine and 14% histidine losses were

occurred during heat processing of green turnip. The glucose content of all vegetables except for carrot and broad bean is decreased by cooking. Anderson and Clydesdale (1980)[13] found that rigorously boiling or retorting carrots and green beans tended to solubilize and then destroy water soluble pectic substances. Phytates The soluble phytates can be lost through leaching into cooking and soaking liquids and canning brines (Iyer et al. 1980)

They also found that the beans soaked in distilled water contained

upto 1/3 less phytic acids than bean soaked in salt solutions. Tabekiya and Luh (1980) when compared to that of raw beans. Pigments

showed that the canning of beans resulted in up to a 92% decrease in the phytic acid content

Chlorophyll exists as chlorophyll a and b. Chlorophyll a is the major component of the chlorophyll s found in vegetables. It is degraded at a rate 2.5 times greater than that of chlorophyll b. Chlorophyll may be degraded by oxidation. Schwartz and Von Elbe (1983)

reported that the major chlorophyll degradation product found in canned vegetables was pyropheophytin. Phenolic content It was also reported that, ascorbic acid of asparagus was greatly reduced by the cooking process (Fanasca et al., 2009)

Normal cooking temperatures were found to detrimentally affect

phenolic content of spinach, komatsuna, haruna, chingensai, cabbage and Chinese cabbage (Roy et al., 2007)

Blanching up to 15 min was found to cause losses of phenolic content,

depending on the species of spinach (Lima et al. 2009)

Table: Effects of different heat treatments on the total phenolic content of some green vegetables


Vegetables Broad Beans Chinese cabbage Broccoli florets Broccoli stems Broccoli

Treatments Steam cooking Conventional cooking Microwaving & cooking Microwaving & cooking Conventional cooking

Effects Decrease Decrease Decrease Decrease Decrease

Percentage (%) 16 10 71.6-71.9 42.2-44.4 41.3

Source wolosiak et al(2009) Lima et al.(2009) Zhang & Hamauzu(2004) Gawlik-Dziki(2008)

Healthiest way of cooking & processing to minimize nutritional losses To support the nourishment and to retain the beneficial effects of green vegetables, certain procedure has to be followed. In case of broccoli, low cooking temperature in a range that includes the steaming temperature of 212ÛF (100ÛC), with a cooking times of 5 minutes reduces the nutritional losses at the most. To obtain the maximum nutrition & flavor in broccoli, the bottom of a steamer pot should be filled with 2 inches of water. When the water started boiling the stem has to be cooked first followed by florets and leaves. Since the fibrous stems take longer to cook, they can be prepared separately for a few minutes before adding the florets. It was reported that stir-frying of broccoli produced some fairly positive results with respect to nutrient retention in the broccoli. The nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, phenols and glucosinolates were retained after stir-frying at the temperature range of 248Û-284ÛF (120Û-140ÛC) for 3-1/2 minutes. Decreasing temperature of processing was also found to preserve 80-100% of phenolic content in some vegetables (Roy et al., 2007)

The short cooking time used in steam cooking preserves

the antioxidant components of the vegetables than conventional cooking. Steam cooking was also reported to increase the antioxidant activity of broccoli by 230% (Roy et al., 2007)

Therefore, steam cooking should be used instead of boiling the vegetables for prolonged periods. The antioxidant properties of raw and cooked spears of green asparagus cultivars, the cooking process increased the antioxidant activity by 16% (Podsedek et al., 2008)


Most losses are due to the leaching of antioxidant compounds from the vegetables into the cooking water during the prolonged exposure to water and heat. Therefore, it is vital to use less water and cooking time and also to consume the water used for boiling so as to obtain the optimum benefits of bioactive compounds present in vegetables. Thus appropriate methods might be sought for the processing of such vegetables to retain their antioxidant components at maximum level. Much of the stringiness evident in the texture of green beans comes from their high fiber content, notably from their cellulose and hemicellulose content. Though, steaming decreases the fiber content slightly, the decrease is not significant. Since some of the nutrients found in green vegetables (e.g beans) are particularly sensitive to light, nutrient losses occur when steaming is carried out. One of these nutrients is riboflavin (vitamin B2) and studies have shown that prolonged exposure to light is a critical factor in the loss of riboflavin during cooking. Covering, the pot while cooking at 300-325 oF reduces the nutritional loss.

Though the beneficial effects are there in heat processing, the nutritional losses are more than nutritional enhancement. The results showed that foods should be minimally processed so as to reduce nutritional losses and to preserve the compounds that contribute to their antioxidant and cell proliferation inhibition activities. Hence consumer demand for safe and nutritious food has led to the development of a number of non thermal foods processing & preservation techniques. REFERENCES 1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetable 2) Arthey, D. and C. Dennis. 1991. Vegetable processing. VCH Publishers, New York.


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