Think a raw veggie diet is the best way to go for optimal nutrition? Think again. Cooking vegetables helps to soften their tough fibrous exteriors and loosen up all the nutritional good stuff that lies inside. In fact, some vegetables are actually more healthful if you eat them cooked. The only problem is, not all cooking methods are the same as some provide more nutrition while others add unwanted fat and calories.
–Microwaving: When in doubt, microwave your veggies for maximum antioxidant preservation. Exception: Keep cauliflower out of the microwave; it loses more than 50 percent of its antioxidants when microwaved!
– Griddle: Who says that your griddle should be reserved only for pancakes? Beets, celery, onions, Swiss chard, and green beans cook particularly well on the griddle. Griddles allow vegetables to retain as many antioxidants as microwaving.
–Baking/Roasting: Baking, or roasting, is hit-or-miss. Bake your artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, and peppers, all of which retained their antioxidant values, but not your carrots, Brussels sprouts, leeks, cauliflower, peas, zucchini, onions, beans, celery, beets, and garlic, which all saw decreases in nutrient levels. The veggies you should really bake are green beans, eggplant, corn, Swiss chard, and spinach, all of which saw their antioxidant levels increase after baking. Toss a handful of those veggies into your next casserole!
–Frying: It’s probably no surprise that this method fails the test when it comes to antioxidants and nutrition levels. In addition to adding way too much fat to your meal, it caused a loss of between 5 and 50 percent of each vegetable’s nutrients.
–Pressure Cooking/Boiling: Don’t use these methods if you want to retain antioxidants in your vegetables. Peas, cauliflower, and zucchini are particularly susceptible to losing nutrients through boiling. If you do need to boil your vegetables, save the nutrient-rich boiling water and use it the next time you make a soup or sauce. There are always exceptions, and in this case, it’s carrots. Boiling carrots boosts their carotenoid content more so than steaming or frying them.
–Steaming: Steaming is the best method for preserving antioxidants found in broccoli and zucchini. Contrary to what you may think, this may not be the healthiest way to prep vegetables anyway. Many of the vitamins and nutrients in vegetables are fat soluble, meaning your body absorbs them better in the presence of fat. If you prefer steaming your vegetables, toss them with a small amount of olive oil before serving to boost nutrient absorption.
–Sauteing: The process of sautéing is similar to that of microwaving. Cooking your vegetables over high heat in a short amount of time, minimizes nutrient loss, and the oil in which you’re sautéing them helps your body absorb more of the nutrients.