Using a steamer for cooking is a healthy method that results in minimal nutrient loss from vegetables, explains Tufts University. Recipes using the steaming method also do not require the use of fat, and are recommended for anyone following a low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet.
Vegetables like broccoli and carrots, seafood like fish fillets and crab legs, and even rice can be cooked in a steamer. Using the microwave as a steamer or done on the stovetop, steamer recipes are an effective way to prevent a food’s nutrients from being broken down, or lost, during the cooking process.
Steamer for Cooking Benefits
Steamed food recipes for weight loss do not have to lack flavor and taste. The Mayo Clinic explains that if you're looking to cut down on both trans fats and saturated fats in your diet, it's best to switch your cooking techniques to healthier options.
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According to the American Heart Association, drastically reducing your intake of trans fats, and limiting saturated fats to just 5 to 6 percent of the overall daily calories, will help reduce the amount of "bad" LDL cholesterol in the body. An ideal way to do this is to switch from recipes that recommend frying foods in butter and lard — which are high in saturated fats — to steamer recipes.
Steamer recipes make use of the simple technique of using a steamer for cooking. The vegetable, grain or meat is put into a perforated basket, which is then placed over a pan of simmering water. Adding seasonings and spices to the liquid will help flavor the food as it steams, explains the Mayo Clinic.
If you don't want to use a steamer for cooking, you can turn to the microwave. Harvard Health Publishing explains that adding some water to the food, and placing it in the microwave, will have the same effect as steaming it over the stove. Vegetable recipes using this steaming method will retain more vitamins and minerals than if they were boiled, fried or baked.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using steamed food recipes for weight loss. Using steamer recipes will significantly decrease the calorie count, as well as the overall fat content, in any dish.
Different Foods You Can Steam
When it comes to the best vegetables to steam, almost all vegetables do well in the steamer for cooking. This is primarily because steaming is a quick method of cooking, and doesn't let the vegetables sit in water. Sitting will leach any water-soluble vitamins, and restricts the amount of heat exposure the vegetable gets.
Read more: Nutrition of Boiled Rice vs. Steamed Rice
According to a June 2017 study published in Food and Bioprocess Technology, broccoli is one of the best vegetables to steam. This method prevents two key water-soluble antioxidants — glucosinolates and vitamin C — from being broken down and lost during the cooking process.
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Steaming is key when it comes to retaining vitamin C in vegetables, according the results of an April 2018 study published in Food Science and Biotechnology. Researchers found that recipes using the steaming method, with minimal water for cooking, and less cook time, generally resulted in higher levels of vitamin C in the cooked foods.
Rice can also be made using a steamer for cooking. Using a rice steamer, as opposed to cooking rice on the stovetop, is a hassle-free way. All you have to do is add the required amount of rice — if using white rice, follow an equal ratio of rice to water — to the rice cooker.
Read more: How to Cook Rice in a Slow Cooker
Similarly, lentils can also be made in the rice steamer. For every cup of dried lentils, you require two parts of water. The final yield will be 2 cups of cooked lentils, which can be made more flavorful by adding seasonings like a bay leaf, spices and even garlic cloves to the water, before turning on the steamer.
According to North Carolina State University, steaming seafood is an excellent method of bringing out the natural flavors of fish. Fish fillets, seasoned fish and even shellfish, are all capable of being steamed.
Pre-cooked crab legs can also be reheated in a steamer for cooking. Add them into the steamer basket, over some boiling water, and let cook for five to six minutes, or until completely reheated through.
- Tufts University: "Maximize Your Foods’ Nutrition by Healthy, Easy Steaming”
- Mayo Clinic: "Healthy-Cooking Techniques: Boost Flavor and Cut Calories”
- American Heart Association: “Trans Fat”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Microwave Cooking and Nutrition"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight”
- Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences: "Chow Line: Steam, Roast Vegetables to Retain Nutrients”
- Food and Bioprocess Technology: "Influence of Different Cooking Methods on the Concentration of Glucosinolates and Vitamin C in Broccoli"
- Food Science and Biotechnology: "Effect of Different Cooking Methods on the Content of Vitamins and True Retention in Selected Vegetables"
- North Carolina State University: "Steamed Snapper Fillets and Cilantro and White Wine Sauce"