Some loves vegetables whiles others do not but whether we like or dislike them, the world agrees that they are good for our health and mind. And we can make them more nutritious by preparing them in ways that can optimize their benefits. Preparing vegetables does not necessarily mean raw – it can be the way we cook them. Cooking vegetables can break down hard their external layers and cellular composition so that their nutrients can easily be absorbed by our body. Some veggies are healthier when we them raw, and others when we eat them cooked.
There are many ways to prepare and cook vegetables where a cooking method may boost their antioxidants and nutrients, others may not. How we prepare and cook veggies is crucial in absorbing their nutrients.
Steam, avoid boiling veggies
Basically, keep temperature, amount of liquid, and cooking time up to a minimal degree. Steaming is considered as the best way of cooking vegetables -well most – particularly broccoli, which is known as one of the top anti-cancer foods.
Nutritionists agree that we buy fresh broccoli, go for “firm florets with purplish, dark green, or bluish color” at the top because they may have beta-carotene and Vitamin C compared to those with florets with lighter green tops.
A study in 2009 where broccoli was cooked by microwaving, boiling, steaming, stir-frying/boiling, and stir-frying. They learned that steaming can keep the highest nutrients. Nutritionists agree that boiling veggies can cause water-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C, folate, and Vitamin B1 to strip to the water. This means the vitamins and nutrients present in boiled veggies are drained into the sink. Therefore, steaming is a milder method of cooking vegetables because they do not make contact with the boiling water.
On the same year, another similar study was conducted which involved zucchini, cauliflower, and peas. They found that these foods tend to lose more than 50 percent of their antioxidants when they are boiled. The researchers concluded, “Water is not the cook’s best friend when it comes to preparing vegetables.”
But in every rule, there is an exemption, and in this method, carrots. A study that involved boiling and steaming carrots boosted its beta-carotene level. They also suggested to cook carrots whole because slicing them can minimize their nutrients by 25 percent.
Experts also recommend to cook vegetables whole to retain their nutrients and vitamins. However, if that is not possible, slice them into bigger uniform pieces that can cook equally. Wash veggies just before you slice or cut them. Washing veggies before storing them may encourage bacterial growth and accelerate spoilage.
Another of cooking vegetables is using microwave oven. Since microwaving applies minimal to no-water at all, the system can heat the vegetables faster from inside. This way can retain nutrients and vitamins, particularly Vitamin that breaks down when heated.
A study that was performed in 2003, learned that beans, carrots, and zucchini contain high level of natural phytonutrients when they are cooked in minimum water. These phytonutrients are compounds that are naturally found in plants that can give us benefits for our health, and therefore, can shield us from diseases.
And oh, before we forget, avoid microwaving cauliflower. A study in 2009 showed results that cauliflower tend to lose most of its nutrients about boiling and microwaving.
Sauteing, avoid frying some vegetables
Many studies have shown fats are absorbed by foods and vegetables during deep-frying. Sauteing using a small amount of good cooking oil like extra-virgin olive oil is a better way of cooking veggies. It improves the taste and since most of nutrients and vitamins found in vegetables are fat-soluble, then our body absorbs them better with the fat. This was affirmed by a study that associated sauteing some vegetables used for Mediterranean recipes like eggplant in extra-virgin olive oil. There was an increase of antioxidants that shield our body from cancer.
Read related article: Cooking Oil Basic Guide
Griddling, Baking, Roasting vegetables
While grilling involves a kind of charcoal, griddling uses a pan with distinct raised edges and basically performed on the stove or in the oven.
Vegetables “griddled with small amount of olive oil produces strong flavor and tend to be healthy. During the study performed in 2009 they called as Spanish study, the researchers learned that griddling is a great choice for broccoli, onion, asparagus, celery, green beans, and Swiss chard.
The study showed results that roasting or baking are good in cooking peppers, artichokes, broccoli, and asparagus because the method retains its antioxidants. The method is not a good choice for zucchini, carrots, garlic, Brussels sprouts, celery, onions, peas, leeks, beans, cauliflower, beets, and beans because it reduces their nutritive value.
Baking is an excellent way to cook vegetables like eggplant, spinach, green beans, corn, and Swiss chard. It enhances it antioxidants after baking. Baking destroys antioxidants from green peppers.
Tomatoes are best served by roasting. Results of a study show that slicing and heating of tomatoes exposes its cell wall and provides us with the benefits of lycopene, with a little help from olive oil.
So what is the best method of cooking vegetables?
The truth is none of the cooking method can retain 100% their vitamins, phytochemicals, and nutrients in the vegetables. So we suggest not to restrict yourself to only one way of cooking or preparing vegetables, or eating salads only.
Eat and enjoy steamed, microwaved, grilled, roasted, boiled in a soup, or even raw vegetables. Better, enjoy veggies fresh, especially those that are grown locally if possible, and frozen. The more versions that you have, the more you will be able to eat and enjoy vegetables.
The bottom line is to enjoy the gifts of nature, be well, and live a better life!
Related article on healthy methods of cooking.