Diet :: Hospital food could lack nutritional value

Substantial nutrient loss in food occurs in hospital foodservice operations, according to research recently published in the Journal of Foodservice. The study quantifies how much Vitamin C, as a marker of nutrient quality, is retained at various stages of processing at two New Jersey hospitals.

The nutrient quality of Vitamin C was significantly reduced as a food sample progressed to patients ? by as much as 86% at a hospital in an inner-city neighborhood. Since many nutrients, including Vitamin C, degrade at high temperatures, this loss may be result from food being heated to a temperature much higher than recommended by hospital foodservice so as to still be warm when served to patients.

As improved nutritional status correlates with faster healing and recovery, leading to reduced hospital stays, hospitals need improved cooking methods to reduce the loss of nutrients in foods served to patients. Physicians, dietitians, and menu planners rely on published standard nutritional values, but these standards are derived from experiments made in ideal conditions and fail to consider the various handling, holding, and delivery methods that are common in hospitals. A more vigorous approach to patient nutrition is needed, both in terms of food preparation methods and in assessing the actual nutritional status of patients.

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