All natural foods are an essential source of nutrients and vitamins that are fundamental to our health. However, a large part of these nutrients are lost when food is cooked. Therefore, we are going to review the healthiest techniques for cooking food; and we will see how to cook vegetables in a healthy way so that they do not lose their properties.
More and more people are becoming aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. The most important part to achieve this goal is the food we choose. Following our Mediterranean diet will help us in this task. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is essential for good health. As well as taking into account the optimal season for each food, because that is when they have all their properties.
But another very important part to achieve this is the method we choose to cook vegetables. And, as many of you know, after cooking food, a great part of its nutrients are lost. Especially vitamins and minerals will be affected at the time of cooking, as they are the most sensitive when cooking food.
Foods lose nutrients that are soluble in water after cooking
This is because many of them are soluble in water. That is, when we cook, these nutrients dissolve in water and are lost. But there are very healthy cooking techniques that avoid this loss of vitamins and minerals. Even in some cases, proper cooking can improve the supply of nutrients. And, as in many cases it is essential to cook some vegetables (among other foods) to be able to consume them, we are going to see the ways we have to minimize this loss of nutrients. In addition, there are foods that even increase their nutrients after cooking.
Undoubtedly, the best way to consume many foods, especially fruits and vegetables, is raw. In fact, it is recommended to consume a serving of raw vegetables every day, in order to make the most of their nutritional value. But this is not always possible, depending on the type of food. Therefore, we are going to see how to cook vegetables so that they do not lose nutrients, with the healthiest cooking techniques.
Healthier cooking techniques and tricks for perfect results
Undoubtedly, the best way to take advantage of all the nutrients and vitamins is raw. And, although the options are many, as we will see below, we cannot limit ourselves to these foods or these preparations. There are also foods that improve their nutritional contributions when cooked, but these are only a few. Therefore, as most of the time we have to cook food, we will see which processes are more respectful; and which cooking techniques are healthier to cook and that food, and in particular vegetables, do not lose nutrients.
How to cook vegetables so that they do not lose their properties: Healthier techniques
Before considering the cooking technique to be used, it is important to know that all foods begin to lose nutrients as soon as they reach our homes. That is why, to avoid it, it is convenient to make the purchase according to the consumption that we have at home. It is not convenient to keep food stored in the refrigerator for a long time. In addition, we have to take into account other small details to reduce the loss of nutrients to a minimum:
- When we wash vegetables or fruits we will do it with them whole. We will never wash them under the tap already cut or peeled.
- In addition, we will cut them just before their use. It is not advisable to store them cut or peeled, as this will also increase the loss of nutrients.
- Other elements that favor the loss of nutrients are light, heat, oxygen, or excessive soaking.
- As far as possible, avoid peeling food whenever it is not necessary. The peel and skins also contain a large amount of nutrients and vitamins.
One of the healthiest techniques for cooking vegetables without losing their properties is steaming.
After eating raw, the next healthiest option to avoid the loss of nutrients in our food would be steaming.
Steaming consists of cooking the food only with the steam that is released from the boiling water, which will be underneath the product. In this way, as our ingredients do not come into contact with the water, we avoid to a great extent the loss of nutrients.
How to steam vegetables so they don’t lose nutrients
To follow this cooking technique we need a steamer. It is a grill type container in which we place the food. It is placed over a pot of boiling water, but the steamer must always be above the water, so that it never touches the food. The pot must remain closed to prevent the steam from escaping.
The steam generated by the hot water will be enough to cook the food and maintain all its properties. You can find different steamers to attach to your own pots, or even a complete steamer if you use this cooking method a lot.
Cooking food in the microwave
In the microwave, although it may seem incredible to us, we can cook vegetables of all kinds. The technique would be similar to steaming, but we do not need a steamer or water. To cook food in this way, it will be enough to make a few cuts in the skin, to prevent them from exploding; and always use microwave-safe containers.
In addition, nowadays we find in the market a multitude of tools and utensils that facilitate us enormously this task.
Sautéed, so that the vegetables retain their properties
This cooking technique involves a low loss of nutrients. By sautéing the food, what we do is to cook it over high heat for a very short period of time, the loss of nutrients is lower than with other techniques.
It is a very common preparation in Asian cuisine. With very little oil we can cook a great quantity of food in a very healthy way and avoiding the loss of nutrients.
Another of the healthiest cooking techniques is baking.
When baking foods, we will normally cook them without fat (neither oil nor butter), or, in case of adding it, the amount will be minimal. In addition, in this way, the ingredients do not come into contact with water, which prevents the dissolution of a multitude of nutrients and vitamins.
The loss of nutrients will be proportional to the time required for each food to be cooked with this technique.
And, finally, we would have the method of boiling the food.
As a cooking technique it is the least recommended to prevent food from losing nutrients. Although it is very healthy because we do not add any fat or oil for cooking.
The negative side is that in the water a large amount of minerals and vitamins are dissolved. That is why it is the least recommended cooking technique. And, if we use it, never throw away the cooking broth of the food, since it is there where a great part of the nutrients of the food will be found.
Even so, it is an essential way of cooking for a multitude of preparations, for example, in creams and purees. A trick to minimize the loss of murients in these recipes is to cook the food with the minimum of water that we need to cover them. Thus we will take advantage of all the water, or great part, in the elaboration of the dish. And always cook for the right amount of time. Because, if we cook during long periods of time the loss of nutrients will be greater.
But as in many occasions we have to cook the food, we can reduce the loss of nutrients with some very simple tricks.
How to cook cooked vegetables avoiding excessive loss of nutrients
- Add the ingredients just when the water is boiling. This will prevent them from being in contact with the water for too long. Something that, if we remember, also favors the loss of vitamins and minerals.
- Cut the food in pieces as big as the elaboration allows you. The smaller the pieces of vegetables are, the more nutrients will be lost.
- As we had commented, whenever possible, boil the food with the smallest possible amount of water.
- And finally, cook the food just as long as necessary. A prolonged cooking favors the loss of nutrients; at the same time that leaves the food softer and less appetizing. It is preferable that they be more tender rather than too soft.
- In this way, in addition to avoiding excessive loss of nutrients, we will also better maintain its flavor.
Which vegetables can be eaten raw?
Undoubtedly, as far as vegetables are concerned, the best way to avoid their loss of nutrients is to consume them raw, although many times we cannot eat them uncooked. Also, remember that it is recommended to consume at least one serving per day of raw vegetables, for example, in salads.
- Peppers. Peppers are a must in many salads, and we add them raw. It is not necessary to cook this ingredient to include it in our diet. In addition, peppers stand out for their high vitamin C content, which is soluble in water. For what we will lose this contribution if we cook it.
- Tomato. Although, as we will see later, it is one of the few cases in which it is more beneficial to eat it cooked, it is a delicious ingredient that we can eat raw at any time of the day.
- Onion and Garlic. They are two foods that we can eat raw perfectly and that, in addition, have an important contribution of vitamins and minerals. Eating them raw will keep all their nutrients intact.
- Lettuce. We hesitated whether or not to include it in this list, since we do not know of any recipe in which lettuce is cooked. Even so, it is a perfect vegetable to eat raw without losing any of its properties.
- Spinach. Spinach, perfect for a multitude of recipes and stews, is much more interesting nutritionally speaking if we eat it raw. And they are the ideal base for a multitude of salads. For example, this delicious green salad.
Many vegetables that we are not used to consuming in this way are suitable for raw consumption.
- Chard. Chard can also be consumed raw. For example, in salads. But try to use young and tender chard.
- Broccoli. Although it may sound surprising, broccoli can be eaten raw. Of course, we must wash it very well just at the moment of consumption.
- Carrots. Carrots are also perfect to eat raw. In this way they will maintain their high vitamin C content. But, they are also a source of antioxidants that benefit from cooking. So we can include them in the list of raw ingredients but do not hesitate to add them to other recipes that require cooking.
- Cauliflower. In addition, the great advantage of consuming cauliflower raw is that we will avoid that peculiar smell in our kitchen. In raw, it has a soft and fresh flavor that will surprise those who are not very fond of this vegetable. We can reserve the smaller florets to include them raw in our salads. Of course, as with any food that we consume raw, remember to wash it very well.
Which foods improve their nutritional value after cooking?
Although in most cases subjecting foods to any cooking process will cause them to lose nutrients, to a greater or lesser degree, this is not always the case. In fact, some of them increase their quantity or quality after the cooking process.
For example, the antioxidants that foods provide us with usually benefit from cooking, since their content increases. This is the case of tomatoes, which increase their lycopene content after cooking.
Something similar happens with legumes and meat. And it is that the proteins that they contribute to us are much more digestive after the cooking of the food.
And now that we have seen how to cook vegetables and foods in general to avoid excessive loss of nutrients, we no longer have an excuse not to improve our diet a little more. This does not mean that we should avoid at all costs other types of cooking, such as stews or fried foods. Remember that you have to eat everything, and some fried food from time to time is not bad. On the other hand, stews are dishes that, in my opinion, we should not give up. But we can take into account these cooking techniques to start using them (if we were not already doing so), or use them more often in order to try to improve our diet.
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