There’s a resurgence of scurvy cases in Sydney. You read it right, and yes, the year is 2016. In this day and age, one wonders how anyone could get a historical disease like scurvy, let alone several cases of it – in Australia!
Well, it’s true, and unlike at the time of its discovery 300 years ago, the rare condition manifested not in sailors but to a group of diabetes patients at a western Sydney hospital. The cause is the same as the case with the sailors – low levels of vitamin C. The difference however is how they got it this time.
Who dunnit, you ask? The cook is the culprit and heat and water are his murder weapons!
If you like your vegetables cooked to a soft consistency, then you’re cooking it and its vitamin C content to death. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which is why it is sensitive to heat. The worst way to cook vegetables if you want to retain its vitamin content, vitamin C in particular, is to boil them.
In some cuisines, like in Indian cooking, vegetables are cooked to a mushy consistency. The flavours and texture may be good, but the nutrients, unfortunately, have been massacred by overcooking them.
In the case of the diabetes patients, their vegetables have been overcooked to the point that they have lost their nutrients. It’s good as a source of fiber but it doesn’t have any nutritional benefit left in them.
Just how important is vitamin C to your body? Your body needs it for the growth and repair of tissues, for the production of collagen, which is a protein needed to make skin, tendons, cartilage, blood vessels and ligaments. It’s great for healing wounds and maintaining bone health and teeth.
The good thing about it is you can get it from a lot of sources. Most fruits have it, but it’s found in abundance in cantaloupe, citrus, kiwi, papaya, pineapples and berries. Vegetables also have it, especially bell peppers and dark leafy greens.
And no, you don’t have to eat them raw all the time, just to get the vitamin C benefits of these foods. Quick cooking such as stir-fried or lightly steaming of vegetables will do the trick. Microwaving in just a tablespoon of water is another way of preserving the vitamin C in your vegetables. You can cook Broccoli and Brussels sprouts for three minutes on high, and they come out a beautiful green colour, cooked yet still crunchy.
Scurvy is a historical disease that’s best left in the annals of medicine. Yet despite its simple cure, it’s a disease that can cause real problems in our health. Vitamin C intake also boosts the immune system, which can ward off minor ailments like the common cold.
And while a vitamin tablet will address the problem, going for natural food is still the best way to heal and protect our bodies from illness. Just don’t overcook them or it’ll be the death of the vegetables and its vitamin C content. So eat to your heart’s and health’s content but get the most out of your food, flavour, texture and vitamin C.