Eating vegetables is an important part of our everyday diet. They are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber to help keep us healthy and even lower the risk of disease. In order to maximize the amount of nutrients you consume, it is important to know how to prepare your vegetables properly. Cooking vegetables using the appropriate method will not only lead to the preservation of nutrients but also improve taste and texture. Did you know that some veggies are more nutritious when they are cooked? The cooking process can break down the cellular structure of some nutrients, such as lycopene found in tomatoes, enabling your body to absorb these nutrients more efficiently.
So how do you figure out the best way to cook your veggies? The most common methods of cooking are sautéing, microwaving, roasting, boiling and steaming. A study conducted in 2016 by the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science found that both the preparation and cooking can affect the nutrient content within certain vegetables and legumes. Steaming was found to be the best method of cooking to maintain nutritional quality in most vegetables. Boiling vegetables causes water-soluble vitamins, including vitamins C and B, to leach out of the vegetable and into the cooking water. So, unless you are drinking the water in the pot, you will be missing out on those nutrients. This study also found that soaking and then cooking starchy vegetables and legumes are effective in removing any toxins prior to consumption.
Vegetables also retain most of their nutrients when microwaved, roasted or sautéed, but it’s important not to overcook or over saturate them in oil. Remember to use a small amount of healthy oil, like olive or canola, when sautéing. Microwaving vegetables is another great way to cook them quickly and effectively as it uses little to no water, helping to preserve the water-soluble nutrients that break down when heated.
Bottom Line: The best cooking method depends on the vegetable you are preparing. Steaming and microwaving preserve the nutrients in your vegetables and don't compromise the taste or texture. It all “boils” down to minimizing the amount of liquids that could leach the nutrients and beauty from your veggies.
Written By: Elisha Hanlon, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern