Most individuals are confused and overwhelmed by the amount of information out there on how to cook and prepare vegetables. Is it healthier to eat raw tomatoes or enjoy them in a slow-cooked sauce? Unlike Popeye, your not going to bulk up overnight by eating a can of spinach; however, there are plenty of health benefits you can enjoy by preparing your veggies appropriately.
Steaming is a healthy way to cook – no added fat or calories, zero carcinogens (which form when food is charred), and minimal loss of the good stuff (e.g. vitamins, minerals and natural antioxidants). Steaming for less than 5 minutes has been shown to increase the amount of cancer fighting compounds in broccoli (glucosinolates) by up to 30%. Boiling and frying both cause substantial loss of these healthy compounds. A large portion of the water-soluble vitamins (i.e. vitamins B and C) are leached out of the vegetable during boiling, burnt to a crisp during frying, but are actually better preserved in their natural state during steaming. Steaming can actually increase the amount of fat-soluble vitamins (i.e. vitamins A, D, E, and K) and other nutrients your body absorbs by loosening up the plant matrix and allowing them to be more easily released during digestion. The same is true for lycopene in tomatoes.
Here’s some quick tips to get the most nutrition from steaming:
- Try to minimize the amount of steaming time to less than 5 minutes.
- Arrange the most thin parts of the vegetable toward the outside of the steamer with the toughest parts in the middle (e.g. asparagus).
- Add herbs and spices to give your veggies more flavor and antioxidants.
- Replace water with broth for additional flavor.