We’re always told to eat the recommended amount of vegetables, to grow strong like Popeye, but does that matter if we’re losing those beneficial nutrients during the cooking process? That’s why one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to preparing vegetables. The steps we choose are important—some methods can boost nutrient content and some can take it away. For example, carrots and tomatoes are more healthful when cooked, whereas broccoli’s valuable enzyme myrosinase is damaged when exposed to heat. Let’s take a closer look:
Probably my favorite cooking method, sautéing is considered one of the better ways to minimize nutrient loss during cooking. The reason for that is the absence of water and the use of oil to help your body absorb more healthy goodness. And since the oil locks in nutrients and the high-heat cooks foods in a short amount of time, you’ll be able to consume increased vitamins and fiber in your favorite veggies.
You wouldn’t think that using the microwave to cook veggies is recommended, but studies suggest it preserves the maximum amount of antioxidants. For instance, peppers do not lose their vitamin C or polyphenol content, and red cabbage’s cancer-fighting chemicals actually increase during the microwaving process. The only exception is cauliflower—it loses more than 50 percent of beneficial antioxidants.
While boiling is a simple and fast cooking method, it’s also one that causes your vegetables to lose the most nutrients. That’s because water-soluble vitamins like B and C ditch the vegetables for a warmer atmosphere in the cooking water, however, fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K like to stay right where they are. Peas, cauliflower, and zucchini are especially prone to losing nutrients whereas carrots and tomatoes seem to be the only exception, as boiling water helps to enhance their antioxidants.
Although steaming involves water, which is the vegetable’s worst nightmare, this cooking method has no actual contact with water. And when it comes to certain veggies, broccoli and zucchini find steaming to be an effective way to preserve and increase their special antioxidants. The only downside is the unwanted use of oil, which makes the fat-soluble vitamins in vegetables less bioavailable.
Roasting, or baking, can really help vegetables shine while enhancing antioxidant levels—the list includes green beans, peppers, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, eggplant, corn, and spinach. On the other hand, the veggies that see a decrease in nutrients during roasting are carrots, Brussels sprouts, leeks, peas, onions, beets, garlic, cauliflower, and zucchini. All in all, roasting doesn’t require any water so the benefits in vegetables are generally safe.
Nutrients like vitamin C, folate, thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin are affected by cooking methods.
Many nutrients are found in the vegetable peel, so keep it on if it’s edible.
Minimize the amount of water to preserve nutrients.
Sauté your vegetables as soon as you chop them so they don’t lose vitamins from air exposure.
Using healthy oil to sauté vegetables will make fat-soluble vitamins more readily absorbed by the body.
Cook vegetables for the shortest time necessary at a moderately high temperature.
Fat-soluble vitamins hold up better than their water-soluble vitamins.
Vitamin C tends to be the most unstable of all.
HealingRadius hopes these tips will help you in preparing vegetables to maximize their nutritional content. A few simple steps like reducing the amount of water or increasing the temperature for a shorter cooking time will hold in the essentials that we need to continue growing into healthy beings. And if you have any suggestions, we’d love it if you can share them in the comment section below!
Allyson Miller is a bookworm, history nerd and outdoor enthusiast who loves writing creative and informational content for SBT in Rock Hill, SC. Depending on the day, you can find her with her nose in historical documents, shopping for trendy exercise outfits or trying new cooking recipes. Allyson dreams that one day, engineers will figure out a way to build roller coasters sans the incline, ridding her of coasterphobia.