The Best Ways To Cook Your Veggies To Preserve Their Nutrient Content
Did you know that your body requires a daily dose of at least 30 different types of vitamins and minerals in order to function properly? These essential nutrients are required for hundreds of vital functions in your body, such as the building and maintenance of healthy skin, bones and muscles.
And while you might be tempted to head to your local vitamin store to stock up on supplements, you can easily get all of these essential nutrients through a healthy diet — especially one that contains lots of fruits and veggies.
Unfortunately, some popular cooking methods like boiling and baking can strip your vegetables of the vitamins and minerals that are easily destroyed when exposed to excess heat for prolonged periods of time. Nutrients that are particularly vulnerable to heat include vitamin C, folate and potassium. And eating veggies raw isn’t always the answer — some studies suggest that cooking certain vegetable varieties (like spinach, carrots and tomatoes) actually boosts their bioavailable nutrient content. So when you’re prepping your veggies, stick to these three cooking methods to retain the most nutrients.
Some people believe that microwaving ruins the nutrient content of foods, but this method actually does the opposite. Microwave cooking times are substantially shorter than those of other popular cooking methods — usually, you don’t cook veggies in the microwave for more than seven minutes — so heat-sensitive vitamins and minerals are less likely to break down due to excess heat exposure. When cooking veggies in the microwave, you also don’t usually need to add fats (like oils or butter) for proper cooking, so this cooking method can help you cut back on calories, too, if that’s something you’re looking to do.
Pro tip: Splash your veggies with water before heating them up in the microwave to keep them from drying out.
This cooking method’s arguably one of the healthiest ones in the books. Steaming reduces cooking times, heat and the need for additional fat-laden cooking aids like oil and butter. Again, since your veggies are exposed to less heat for a shorter period of time, they retain more of their nutrient content. So the next time you buy fresh greens from the market, consider steaming them instead of dumping them into a pot of boiling water. This is especially important for veggies like broccoli, zucchini and cauliflower, which are rich in vitamins C and B1 and folate — all vitamins that are known to leach into water and decompose if exposed to excess heat.
Cooking veggies by sautéing them in a pan is another great way to preserve their nutrient content. This method doesn’t require the use of any water and only exposes veggies to heat for a relatively short period of time. When sautéing your greens, coat your pan with extra-virgin olive oil for a healthy substitute to butter. Using olive oil when sautéing maximizes flavor and even appears to maximize the absorption of certain nutrients — like phenols and carotenes, both healthy antioxidants.
Health tip: Remember not to go overboard on the olive oil. While it’s a great source of healthy monosaturated fatty acids and antioxidants, like any fat, it’s also high in calories, so try using just enough to get a nice sear on your veggies.