Which Cooking Methods Preserve the Most Nutrients?

By: Shirley De Leon

Think boiling your vegetables is healthier just because they aren’t fried? You may be surprised to learn that boiling is one of the worst ways to cook vegetables compared to other methods. When boiling food, the nutrients get lost in the hot water, so unless you save the liquid for soup later on, those nutrients will go to waste.

Cooking vegetables can release certain nutrients and deplete others. For example, beta carotene, found in most orange and red fruits and vegetables, are enhanced after cooking. Vitamin C levels, however, drop in produce after exposure to heat. 

To retain nutritional value, it is recommended that you cook foods thoroughly but quickly. Avoid overcooking foods, especially vegetables, as it will wipe out most of their nutrients. The three best cooking methods—pressure cooking, microwaving and steaming — ensure foods retain much of their nutritional value after brief contact with heat and little water. Here are cooking tips to maximize your nutrient intake.

  • When using a pressure cooker, follow how-to instructions provided with the kitchen appliance for proper cooking and keep an eye on the foods as they cook fast.
  • When microwaving, skip the plastic. Plastic containers and plastic wrap, including those labeled microwave safe, contain chemicals that may increase the risk of birth defects and cancer in humans. These chemicals from tub ware seep into the foods upon cooking, so heat foods in glass or ceramic containers and cover with a damp paper towel.
  • To steam foods, use a large pot and a steaming basket to minimize contact with water and to better circulate the steam. Cook vegetables until brightly colored and slightly crisp. Bamboo steamers work well, too. 



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