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The answer, obviously, is yes: chopping your vegetables, at the most elemental level, changes their shape. But a new study seeks to understand how slicing and dicing affects both their taste and nutritional value.
A study originally published on NPR’s The Salt indicates cutting vegetables might affect both taste and chemical composition. The blunt force of a blade tearing through vegetable fibers releases polyphenol, a chemical compound that gives plants color and protects them from UV radiation. Polyphenols, apparently, are pretty good for us (they’re a type of antioxidant) and can help decrease inflammation.
However, the amount of polyphenol produced by chopping is often too small to make a significant difference. The Salt cites carrots as an example: “Although chopping carrots boosts levels of polyphenol by nearly 200 percent, carrots normally contain very small amounts of these compounds to start with.” So, any potential health benefits are almost too inconsequential to consider.
While chopping doesn't have a significant health benefit, it can still leave an impact—chopping changes a vegetable's texture and taste. Cutting through those cell walls with a blade releases enzymes that can make greens go limp and soft, like basil, which turns wilt-y upon cutting. Polyphenol tastes bitter, so increased release of the compound can make your vegetables taste more… well, bitter. Isn’t there that saying, bitter is better? Who knows!
Another dispatch from The Salt dives into the way different cuts affect vegetables' taste. Julienned carrots will taste like a chopped or minced one. The reason being surface area: the amount of space on a cut vegetable will dictate how much flavor surrounding flavor it takes on. Size also has a bearing on cooking time.
We’ve long been taught that ripping greens or herbs is better than taking a knife to them. When it comes to taste and texture, it seems accepted wisdom may still hold up.
What's your cutting method? Do you tear or cut your greens? Tell us about it in the comments.