Is the Microwave Really the Best Way to Cook Veggies?

We all know that vegetables are chock full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that we need in our diet.

But when it comes to cooking vegetables, not all methods are equal. In fact, some take away some of these much-needed health benefits.

Learn the pros and cons of these popular methods of cooking veggies.

Microwaving

Microwaving is too easy—it can’t possibly be as healthy as cooking them in an oven, right?

Wrong. According to a 2003 study, microwaving your vegetables allows for maximum antioxidant preservation. Reports indicate that this is because microwaving uses little to no water and heats the vegetable quickly from the inside, preserving nutrients such as vitamin C that break down when heated.

Of course, there’s an exception to every rule, and in this case it’s cauliflower. Microwaving this white vegetable causes it to lose the valuable vitamins and phytonutrients that help to lower cholesterol and fight cancer.

Best use: any vegetable except cauliflower.

Griddling

Break out the griddle, because it’s good for more than just Sunday morning pancakes. Griddling has many of the same benefits as microwaving, including preserving the maximum amount of antioxidants.

Be mindful that certain nonstick chemicals used on griddles can contain harmful toxins. Opt for uncoated griddles instead.

Best use: beets, onions, Swiss chard, green beans.

Baking

Baking can increase healthy antioxidant levels in certain vegetables, so keep a supply handy to throw into a casserole or vegetable pie. However, baking has the opposite effect on other vegetables—carrots, Brussels sprouts, leeks, cauliflower, peas, zucchini, onions, beans, celery, beets, and garlic—causing them to lose nutrients.

Best use: Green beans, eggplant, corn, Swiss chard, spinach.

Frying

While deep-fat frying can make for delicious veggie snacks, you’re losing out in the long run. Frying adds fat and strips vegetables of 5 to 50 percent of their natural nutrients. If you’re looking for the crisp texture, stick with griddling or sauteing.

Pressure cooking, boiling

Studies across the board reveal that cooking vegetables in water decreases their nutrient levels in large scale—and unless you’re saving the water for soup or stew, most of the time those nutrients end up literally going down the drain.

While this method is not recommended for most vegetables, there is one exception. Boiling carrots has been found to boost their carotenoids, which improve skin and eye health. Bonus tip: Boiling them whole instead of slicing into smaller pieces will save even more nutrients from being absorbed into the water.

Best use: carrots.

Steaming

Steaming is a great alternative to boiling, serving the same function without losing nutrients to the water. Steaming has been found to be the best method for preserving antioxidants in vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, and peas.

However, many of vegetables’ vitamins and nutrients are fat-soluble, allowing your body to absorb them best in the presence of fat. Add a small amount of olive oil to steamed veggies before serving to increase nutrient absorption.

Best use: zucchini, broccoli, peas.

Sauteing

Sauteing with a dash of heart-healthy olive oil may increase your body’s ability to absorb nutrients such as phenols and carotenoids, possibly because these nutrients are fat-soluble. Sauteing certain vegetables, such as eggplant, has been linked to an increase in antioxidants that protect the body against cancer.

Best use: any vegetable, if paired with extra virgin olive oil.

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