Retention factors are a way of calculating the amount of nutrients in foods that may have been lost or gained during the process of cooking and preparation. A change in nutrient value almost always occurs when a food is cooked. The process of calculating a retention factor typically involves using a protocol determined by the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC).
A majority of the available nutritional information is based on uncooked and unprepared food. This information can generally be found on the packaging of the food product. Many grocery stores have this information available in the store for produce. However, the nutritional content of ingredients typically changes according to the methods of food storage and preparation. Many foods are cooked before they are eaten, and vitamin and mineral levels tend to decrease as food is cooked. However, depending on the ingredients, recipe, and the way that the food is prepared, some nutrients, such as fat, may actually increase during the cooking process.
Patient groups that may use retention factors include athletes, diabetics, pregnant women, vegetarians, and those being treated for anorexia, bulimia, and individuals with high cholesterol. Individuals in these categories often must make sure that they are getting enough nutrients from their food. Nutritionists and other health care professionals may use retention factor calculations to advise patients on how to prepare their favorite foods.
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