What is the best way to prepare vegetables?

Let’s take a closer look at the different cooking methods for optimum nutrition.

  • Baking/Roasting: The great news about roasting is that it doesn’t require any water, so the mineral and vitamin content remains. Roasting gives vegetables a crispy texture and makes them more flavorful due to the caramelization that takes place during the cooking process.

    • How to: In a bowl, stir together spices and a healthy oil. Toss with vegetables until the vegetables are coated. Spread evenly on a large baking sheet. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes in a 400° oven, stirring every 10 minutes or until vegetables are cooked thoroughly. (Cooking times will vary for different vegetables.)

  • Steaming: Steaming is the best method for preserving antioxidants found in broccoli and zucchini. To boost nutrient absorption from fat-soluble vitamins, steam vegetables and eat them with additional seasoning or toss them with a healthy oil (not seed oils) or butter before serving. 
    • How to: Bring a small amount of water to a boil over high heat. When water begins to boil and steam is emerging from the pot, the water is ready. Add vegetables, cover, and reduce the heat. If you have a steamer basket, scatter the vegetables and cover. If you don’t have a steamer, a colander can do the trick.
  • Sautéing/Stir-Frying: Sautéing vegetables over high heat in a little bit of oil is quick and simple. Cooking vegetables over high heat for a short amount of time will minimize nutrient loss, and the oil you use to sauté will aid in nutrient absorption. Sautéing is great for greens, which will wilt and become tender in no time, or for other soft vegetables like peas, mushrooms, and onions. Remember that the more unsaturated the fat, the less stable the oil is at high temperatures and more prone it is to become oxidized. Thus, avoid “vegetable” oils (e.g., canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, etc.), which are all heavily refined, and focus on natural fats, like coconut oil. For more information, please see the linked article: 
    • How to: Heat a small amount of healthy oil in a large, shallow pan. Heat pan on medium or high heat. Add the vegetables to the hot pan and stir frequently until they are browned and cooked through.
  • Microwaving: Cooking vegetables in the microwave requires little to no water and doesn’t require long exposure to high temperatures, which helps retain vegetables’ nutrients. The one exception to this rule is broccoli—keep this vegetable out of the microwave. Broccoli loses more than 50 percent of its antioxidants when microwaved.
    • How to: Arrange vegetables evenly in a microwave safe dish. Wrap bowl with plastic wrap. Puncture the plastic wrap a few times to allow air flow. Set cooking time and cook.

Generally speaking, don’t use the following cooking methods if you want to retain antioxidant levels in your vegetables. 

  • Boiling/Pressure Cooking: Submerging vegetables in water for an extended period of time will release the water-soluble vitamins (vitamins B and C) into the water. If you do boil vegetables, save the nutrient-rich water to use in a future soup or sauce.
  • Frying: Avoid frying. This method fails the test when it comes to retaining antioxidant and nutrition levels. In addition to the high heat, adding unhealthy oils (commercial deep frying) will cause a loss of nutrients.


Sources

"Cooking Vegetables for Optimum Nutrition." Unicity Blog. May 24, 2017. http://www.unicity.com/blog/cooking-vegetables-for-optimum-nutrition/.

Gertz, Christian, Sabine Klostermann, S. Parkash Kochhar. "Testing and Comparing Oxidative Stability of Vegetable Oils and Fats at Frying Temperature." European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology (October 2000), https://doi.org/10.1002/1438-9312(200009)102:8/9<543::AID-EJLT543>3.0.CO;2-V. 

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