It's almost the salad season, and I have vowed this year to improve my diet by eating more of vegetables in a variety of salads. As vegetables are nature’s multivitamins. The best way to consume vegetables is in raw, roasted or cooked form. These methods give a great texture and flavour. But are raw vegetables always healthier? Do these cooking methods destroy the nutrients? Let’s find out what is the best way to cook vegetables to maximise their nutritional value!
Cooking breaks down the tough outer layers and cellular structure of many vegetables, thus making it easier for our body to absorb the nutrients. Cooking also increases minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron. Studies have found that consuming cooked spinach and carrots increases levels of antioxidant like beta-carotene in blood. Cooking converts beta-carotene into vitamin A.
A Spanish study concluded that microwaving, baking and cooking vegetables without oil are the best methods for preserving antioxidants.
SOME DO’S AND DON’T’S WHILE COOKING YOUR FAVOURITE VEGETABLES!
ITS BETTER TO STEAM, THAN TO BOIL: It's always best to keep cooking time, temperature and the amount of water to a minimum. That's why steaming is the best method for cooking most of the vegetables especially broccoli, one of the topmost anti-cancer foods because it contains glucosinolates, a chemical which helps fight cancer.
Boiling vegetables causes the water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C, B1 and folate to leak into the water which is later poured down the sink. Unless you are consuming the water along with your vegetables most of the nutrients are lost. Steaming is a better method for cooking as the vegetables do not meet water.
Veggies should be cooked as a whole because cutting can reduce its nutrients by 25%. If not possible to cook the whole vegetable, cut them into large uniform pieces. Never wash vegetables before storing as it might increase the bacterial growth and speed up spoilage.
MICROWAVE VEGETABLES: Microwaving vegetables requires little to no water. This process heats the vegetables quickly preserving nutrients like vitamin C which usually breaks down when heated. There are exceptions to this method. Cauliflower shouldn’t be microwaved as it loses the highest amount of nutrients.
SAUTE VEGGIES RATHER THAN FRYING: Studies have shown that during deep-frying, fat breaches the food and vegetables causing it to dehydrate. But sauteing in oils like extra-virgin olive oil is a great way to cook. It maximizes the flavour and increases the absorption of phytonutrients like phenols and carotenes. Olive oil is one of the best options for sauteing because it contains the highest levels of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
GRIDING, ROASTING OR BAKING? Griddling is a method that involves a pan with distinctively raised edges and is normally done on the stove or in the oven.
Veggies griddled with olive oil develop an intense flavor and can be healthy too. This method is good for vegetables like green beans, asparagus, broccoli, celery, and onions. Methods like baking or roasting depends on the vegetables.
So, which is the best method? The answer often depends on the vegetable. If you're a dedicated cook then following latest science might be helpful.
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