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Full Steam Ahead

Posted Nov 13 2009 10:02pm

Everyone knows vegetables contain a multitude of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but what if I told you that serving of broccoli you ate last night only had 10% of the nutrients you thought it did?

Cooking methods are crucial in determining just how many health benefits we get from our food.

Any method involving water — such as boiling — will greatly decrease the amount of folate, vitamin C, and B vitamins in vegetables. Even worse, new studies show that many antioxidants are depleted when vegetables are cooked in water.

The solution? Steaming! Many nutrients are preserved this way, since vegetables are cooked over water, rather than in it. Consequently, nutrients are lost are in much smaller quantities than when they are immersed in water.

Microwaving is your second best option. I say “second best” because it involves light, which can deplete vitamin A, B2 (riboflavin), C, D, and E. Granted, a four-minute zap in the microwave will not render the vitamin C in broccoli completely useless, but it will result in a higher loss than if you were to simply steam it.

Sauteeing and frying do not leech out nutrients, but do add on calories and fat. Yes, it is advisable to have some fat with your vegetables to maximize nutrient absorption, but a smarter move is to steam them and then drizzle a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil on top rather than cook them in 2 or 3 tablespoons of oil (especially at 120 calories a pop).

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