Best Way to Cook Vegetables for Maximum Nutrient Content

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Filed Under: Diet, General Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Best Way to Cook Vegetables for Maximum Nutrient Content

Did you know that the way you prepare vegetables can make or break their nutritional value? For instance, microwaving broccoli destroys an important enzyme called myrosinase that is integral in the formation of sulphorophane, broccoli’s main cancer-fighting ingredient. Using the microwave can also zap nutrients out of other vegetables and reduce their healthful properties. 

Boiling your veggies isn’t ideal either. Immersion in heated water for extended periods of time leaches out water-soluble nutrients such as vitamin C, niacin, and folate.

By far the best way to cook vegetables—nutritionally speaking—is steaming them. Three to five minutes of gentle steaming is enough to tenderize your veggies without damaging their nutritional value. And tossing them in a little olive oil or lemon juice and adding a little no-sodium seasoning provides a delicious and healthy side dish for any meal. 

More Vegetable and Produce Tips

  • Garlic’s most protective phytonutrient, allicin, is activated by chopping or crushing the cloves. Allicin becomes most potent if the cut garlic is allowed to sit for 10–15 minutes prior to heat exposure. 
  • Cooking tomatoes doubles the amount of protective lycopene they contain. (Ripening tomatoes on the vine also increases their lycopene content.) 
  • Chili peppers are an abundant source of the compound capsaicin. Capsaicin boasts a thermogenic effect, meaning it raises body temperature and burns calories. It has also been shown to suppress appetite. 
  • Although it is often best to buy organic vegetables and fruits, asparagus, onions, corn, cauliflower, broccoli, avocados, and bananas have some of the lowest pesticide levels of all produce.
  • Avocados nearly quintuple absorption of lycopene, lutein, and other protective carotenoids found in tomatoes. So your best bet is to eat guacamole with your salsa.
  • If you’re minding your weight, reach for more leafy greens. Spinach, collard greens, kale, and other deep, leafy greens deliver more nutrients for fewer calories than any other food out there.
  • To get the most out of your vegetables, consider choosing the ones highest in antioxidants. According to the USDA, the top 10 ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) veggies are: garlic, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli florets, beets, red bell peppers, onions, and corn. 

Now it’s your turn: What’s your favorite healthy vegetable tip?

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