Vegetables add variety and deliciousness to your meals and give you your daily dose of vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, the cooking process destroys the vitamins and minerals that give vegetables their nutritional value. We’ve come up with a few ways by which you can enjoy delicious vegetables without compromising on nutrition.
Rule #1 – Cook with less water.
This rule may be a little surprising because water on its own is great for your body. However, vegetables contain Vitamins B and C, which are water soluble nutrients. Thus, they are susceptible to being leeched from vegetables when they sweat or are boiled in water. Usually, when we cook vegetables in water we then throw then water down the drain. Essentially, you’re pouring all those helpful vitamins straight down the drain.
Rule #2 – Cook at low temperatures.
Heat introduces chemical reactions in the vegetables which may alter or destroy the vitamins. It is necessary to cook at low temperatures, if at all, to preserve the vitamins in their natural state.
Rule #3 – Cook quickly.
As another precaution, aim to cook vegetables for as short a time as possible. The longer vegetables are heated, the more destruction is caused to their nutritional makeup.
6 Better Cooking Methods
Along with the three rules, there are many cooking methods that are important for maintaining nutritional value in vegetables:
Refrigerate – We all have seen what happens to vegetables when they’ve been left outside for too long. In order to slow down the degrading process, keep the veggies cold in the refrigerator. To prevent some vitamins being destroyed by oxygen, it is important to put putting cut or juiced vegetables in airtight containers and store them in the refrigerator. Beware of freezing vegetables, however, as too much cold can also harm them.
Steam – Instead of boiling vegetables, which breaks both the ‘less water’ and ‘less heat’ rules, consider steaming the vegetables instead. Steaming vegetables allows you to cook at a lower temperature. Also, any water that the vegetable leaves off can be reused while cooking something else.
Microwave – using a microwave instead of a stove regulates the amount of heat that you are steaming the vegetables with. Remember to follow the rules and not use too much water. If you are steaming broccoli or cauliflower, for instance, two to three tablespoons are water is plenty, because the vegetables will create their own liquid.
Reuse – Like we already mentioned, when you cook vegetables in water and then throw that water away, you’re wasting most of the minerals and vitamins in the vegetables. A solution for this is to retain that cooking liquid and use it for something else, like to cook rice or make stocks. That way you are not throwing all of those vitamins down the drain, but are instead utilizing them someplace else.
Pressure Cook – Pressure cooking is convenient and easy for when you don’t have a lot of time to prepare a meal. Pressure cooking allows you to cook very quickly (usually about two or three minutes) and also retain all liquids. You can also use a pressure cooker to make a ‘one pot meal’ as a way to prepare your meat and vegetables at the same time. Throw in a few spices and herbs and you’ve got a delicious meal with minimal effort.
Crock Pot – Crock pots are a great way to prepare vegetables while following the three rules. Use a crock pot to cook vegetables at a low temperature with little to no water. One way to do so is to cook vegetables in their skin. For instance, a potato, cooked in its skin, at a low temperature helps preserve as many vitamins and minerals as possible.
Remember to follow the three cooking rules – less water, less heat, less
Time – and you can be sure that you are getting all the necessary nutrients from your vegetables.
Sign up for Dr. Colbert's Newsletter
Receive the latest news on preventative medicine, supplements, promotions, and much more.