How To Cook Vegetables To Maximize Nutrients

cook vegetables

Eating a raw diet has its benefits, but some things just taste better cooked. Depending on how you prepare your food, particularly your plants, you can unintentionally compromise the nutrients contained in the original form. In other words, high heat can actually change the molecular structure of the veggies and sap them of their nutrients. You don’t want that, especially because these nutrients reduce free radicals, maintain cognitive function, and prevent blood clotting. Don’t let your body miss out on the nutritional goodness lost when vegetables are exposed to heat.

Limit water use

Adding extra water to veggies leads to nutrient-leaching. B-vitamins, including B1 and B12, are water-soluble. These essential nutrients aid in skin repair, bone maintenance, and blood functionality. But heat and water increase B-vitamins departure, pulling them into an external environment. Therefore, limit water use and incorporate the remaining water into the dish.

Avoid long boiling durations.

Boiling your veggies too long does more than just turn them to mush. Letting your vegetables linger in boiling water decreases the soluble protein, chlorophyll, and vitamin C more than other cooking methods. So make sure to set a timer so that you don’t overcook your vegetables. Besides, no one wants mushy green beans. 

Steam power

If you like broccoli, you’ll be happy to hear that steaming preserves glucosinolate, a bioactive nutrient that fights cancer. Steaming is the least impactful option since it increases digestibility with indirect heat. It lessens the impact of vitamin C’s vulnerability to heat, preserving the most after a steam session.

Fry free

A little oil won’t hurt your vegetables so long as you’re not deep-frying them. Depending on what you’re warming up, frying prevents lipid-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K from leaving the vegetable in the presence of heat.

Select an appropriate oil

Every oil has a specific heat capacity pairs nicely with what you’re cooking. Extra virgin olive oil aids in nutrient absorption under low-medium cooking temperatures, while avocado oil can tolerate higher temperatures. Choose the right oil for the job to ensure that lipid-soluble vitamins remain in the dish.

Grill wisely

Leaving food on the grill too long causes water to carry nutrients away from food. As a result, B-vitamins escape and can’t be consumed. If you like the smokey flavor you get when grilling vegetables, limit the time you leave them on the grill. Alternatively, eat more veggies to compensate for the lost vitamin B.

Microwave when necessary

Home cooks tend to shun the microwave as a tool for the lazy. But so long as you aren’t heating up TV dinners, the microwave can actually be an ally for healthy eating. Studies show that microwaves limit heat application, which allows the benefits to outweigh the costs. Using a microwave to warm up food for 2-3 minutes preserves more vitamin C than boiling food in the same amount of time.

Refrain from reheating food

Most meals are best enjoyed right after they’re made, so why leave any leftovers? When you reheat food, it incurs additional nutrient loss because the first round of heat was already applied during the preparation process. This is not to say that you should never reheat foods, but it should only be done when needed. Alternatively, choose foods that can be enjoyed cold.

Cut your vegetables afterwards

You can be proactive about limiting nutrient loss by postponing when you cut your vegetables. Making them smaller before they’re cooked increases the surface area for heat and water to extract nutrients.

Don’t peel plant skins before cooking

The exterior of plants such as potatoes, carrots, and eggplants all contain phytonutrients and fiber to nourish your body so why toss them? Peeling depreciates nutrient content while cooking vegetables because it doesn’t have a fibrous layer to delay nutrient leaching. If you’re not a fan of plant skin, remove them after you’ve cooked.

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