Getting three to five servings of vegetables every day is recommended to manage weight, protect against heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. While eating frozen and canned vegetables can help to meet the daily requirement, the best bet is to eat fresh as much as possible. However, the way you cook vegetables is important because some methods, such as boiling, may reduce the amount of nutrients in the food.
Causes of Nutrient Loss
Vegetables have their highest nutrient content right after being picked. If they are canned or frozen right after picking, then much of their nutrient content is preserved. Exposing vegetables to too much heat, light or air can rob them of their nutrients. In addition, you should avoid over cooking vegetables or waiting to long to serve them after cooking, advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If you do want to cook your vegetables, steaming them is a good choice, because it does not lead to as much nutrient loss and steamed vegetables tend to retain more vitamin C than boiled vegetables.
Boiling and Nutrient Loss
To help preserve the nutrients in vegetables make sure to cook them until they are tender but still firm, instructs the University of Kentucky. However, when it comes to boiling there are several concerns. Soaking vegetables can rob them of their nutrients because many of the minerals and vitamins found in vegetables dissolve in water. In addition, the agitation caused by the boiling water can cause the vegetables to break up and the nutrients to evaporate. If you are making a soup the nutrients may end up in the broth.
Tips for Boiling
If you choose to boil your vegetables, the American Dietetic Association suggests using just enough water to prevent the pan from scorching. Simmer the vegetables on the lowest setting of heat possible. When preparing the vegetables, cut them up right before boiling to cut down on air exposure or better yet, cook them whole so there is less surface space exposed to the water, light and heat. Let the water boil first and then add the vegetables to cut down on soaking time.
Eating vegetables in their natural raw state provides the body with the highest amount of fiber. Fiber helps the body to feel full, which can curb overeating, so eating raw vegetables may be best when it comes to weight loss. In regards to nutritional value, cooking vegetables the right way can make the minerals, vitamins and antioxidants contained within them more digestible. Lightly cooking vegetables can break down the cell walls of the plant, so that they are easier to digest, states the Cleveland Clinic. Lightly steaming vegetables is the recommended method of cooking, but for the best nutritional value go for variety. Eat some raw and some cooked vegetables every day.