This awesome guest post was written by Jennifer Lannon, a certified holistic nutritionist! You can check out her website here!
We all know we should be eating loads of veggies daily, but what cooking method is the best?
When it comes to preserving important antioxidants that fight off diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease, steaming may be the best method!
A Brazilian review recently analyzed 21 studies that compared different cooking methods on how they affected vegetables’ levels of antioxidants, compounds that protect against osteoporosis, cancer, arthritis, heart disease and neurodegenerative disease.
Steaming vs. Boiling
Baking, boiling and microwaving all break down vegetables’ tissues and destroy some level of antioxidants. Since some disease-fighting compounds are water soluble, boiling is the least desirable way to cook veggies, since those compounds just dissolve right into the water. (If you are using that water to make a soup then this would be one way to preserve those compounds, otherwise steaming would be the best method of cooking your vegetables.)
The analysis found that on average, boiling reduced vegetables’ levels of polyphenols- a type of antioxidant- by 38%. On the other hand, steaming increased polyphenol content by 52%.
“Because the process is gentler and the vegetables are submerged in water, steaming tends to increase polyphenol levels” says Elizabeth H. Jeffrey, Ph.D., a professor of nutritional sciences at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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The gentle heat from steaming actually releases certain polyphenol bonds that would have prevented your body from being able to digest them if you had eaten the vegetables raw.
Steaming seems to be the best way to preserve important antioxidants that protect against degenerative disease like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and more. However, cooking your veggies by other methods aren’t bad for you either- they just might not have as high levels of certain nutrients.
Whatever way you choose to cook your vegetables, don’t overdo it. Research has shown that over-cooking vegetables until mushy results in high loss of antioxidants. Remove them from heat when tender-crisp for highest antioxidant content. You should be able to pierce them with a fork without them falling apart.
What vegetables are best for steaming? Sturdy vegetables like:
- Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, pearl onions, green beans, brussels sprouts, beets, turnips, sweet potatoes and asparagus.
- Eggplant, leafy greens and squashes work well too.
How To Steam Vegetables
Get a steamer basket with lid and place it over a pot filled with about an inch of boiling water. Depending on the thickness of the veggie, steam the covered produce for anywhere between 4-13 minutes. You can check the vegetables periodically by piercing with a fork. Crisp-tender is what you’re looking for.
Once done, remove the vegetables from the steaming basket and drop into a colander of ice water to stop the cooking. This keeps them nice and crunchy. Remove from ice water immediately and season with your favorite herbs and spices.
Drizzle with some olive oil, lemon juice, and chopped garlic and you’ve got a delicious side dish to compliment any meal!
Here are some other options to jazz up your steamed veggies:
- Add fresh, chopped herbs like parsley, dill and thyme after cooking
- Add a sprig of fresh rosemary or thyme with the veggies while steaming
- Slice up some fresh ginger root and add it to the bottom of the steamer basket
- Drizzle steamed veggies with coconut oil, salt and pepper
- Toss veggies with a bit of Balsamic or red wine vinegar before steaming
So tell me, what kind of vegetables are you going to steam tonight?
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