Over the last couple of years scurvy has been on the rise. Considering how easily preventable the condition is it’s truly shocking. For those who don’t know, scurvy is a disease long associated with sailors who would develop the condition due to having very little access to fresh fruits and vegetables. It would cause lethargy, bruising, bleeding from the gums and could be fatal. Scurvy is caused by a deficiency of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in the diet. In fact, its discovery resulted from the first ever clinical trials in 1747 that established a link between the consumption of citrus fruits, which are high in vitamin C, and scurvy. If we have known about scurvy (and its simple cure) for so long, why is scurvy suddenly making a comeback?
The issue is diet, but not only from an absence of vegetables and fruits. One of the core causes of scurvy today is an unhealthy diet full of fatty junk-foods with only around half of Australians over the age of 18 meeting the required daily serves of fruit and vegetables.
Cooking can also be the culprit. Vitamin C is leeched out of vegetables in the cooking process with boiling and stir-frying causing the most significant loss. This occurs due to the solubility of ascorbic acid in water meaning that it dissolves easily out of vegetables, such as broccoli, which can lose up to 81% of its ascorbic acid concentration during cooking. The heat of the boiling water also causes the vitamin to degrade, further reducing the vitamin C content of the food.
The easy way around this is to steam your veggies instead of boiling them, as steaming has a minimal impact on the nutritional value of food. If you must boil your veggies, it is far better to wait until the water is already boiling before adding your vegetables, this way the water is less oxygenated, reducing the degradation of vitamins.