What's the Healthiest Way to Cook Veggies?

Have you been told you shouldn’t cook your veggies because they're healthier raw?  Or that a microwave kills the nutrients in your vegetables? 

What's the healthiest cooking method for your veggies anyway?  Is it boiling, baking, frying, pressure cooking, using a microwave or a griddle? (a thick hot pan with no oil).  Which of these cooking methods will retain more antioxidants in veggies?

A study (1) published in the Journal of Food Science in 2009 sought to determine just this -- how different cooking methods affect the antioxdant levels in vegetables.  

Researchers took 20 different vegetables and measured their antioxidant capacity.  First as raw veggies, and then again after they'd been cooked to see what changes took place.

Every cooking method either caused a great loss in antioxidant power, a small loss, no loss or an increase in antioxidant power.  An increase in antioxidants from cooking?  Yes!  

Some veggies became healthier from cooking them.  For example….

- asparagus increased its antioxidant activity when boiled

- eggplant's antioxidants increased when pressure cooked

- baking caused an antioxidant increase in green bean, eggplant, maize, swiss chard and spinach

- and the microwave!  Eggplant, maize, pepper and swiss chard all increased antioxidant capacity in the microwave

Cooking methods decreased antioxidant capacity in some veggies...

- zuccini lost over 50% of its capacity when boiled

- most veggies lost 30-50% when pressure cooked

- leeks and cauiflower lost 30-50% when baked

The above are examples of changes in 1 type of antioxidant.  The researchers actually measured 2 types of antioxidants and the 2nd measurements found different results for different cooking techniques.  This means cooking affects different antioxidants differently.  All antioxidants aren't created equal.

Overall, researchers found that griddling and microwaving were the best cooking methods for maintaining antioxidant levels, while pressure cooking and boiling led to the greatest antioxidant losses.

You may be wondering "did any food not lose its antioxidants from cooking?"

Both celery and carrots increased in antioxidant power after all cooking methods and beets, green beans and garlic retained their power after most cooking.

How can you actually use this information?

Should you only microwave and never boil eggplant anymore?  Heck no!

This is what I want you to take away from this article...

Don't worry about the cooking method you use.  Eat veggies in whatever way you enjoy!  This will ensure you actually eat vegetables which is more important -- eating a variety of vegetables everyday!

When you eat a warm bowl of veggie-noodle soup for example, you'll be eating a variety of different veggies.  Some of these veggies will have increased their antioxidants from the heating, while other veggies will have decreased antioxidant amounts and others will have stayed the same.  The variety of veggies will produce exactly what your body needs.  

So don't worry about which cooking technique is "healthiest."  Even I’d go nuts trying to boil and bake some but not others.  Aye!

Now it's time to hear from you.  Answer today’s Take Control Now question and put your answer in the comments section below. 

Take Control Now

What's your favorite vegetable and your favorite way to have it prepared?

I look forward to reading your answer.

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