Smarter Vegetable Cooking

I hated carrots when I was a kid. A decades later, after a home cooking demonstration, I politely tasted the carrots. I was flabbergasted! They were delicious! I couldn’t believe that adulthood had changed my taste buds that much. The cookware representative explained the real secret was in the cooking method. Steaming the vegetables to a crisp-tender state helped preserve the flavor.

As I reflected upon this, I realized that the cooked vegetables I had as a child were always boiled for long periods of time in a pan full of water. In fact, before serving, I was always amazed at the pretty colored water that was poured down the sink. The representative told me that the flavor of a vegetable comes from the nutrients inside the vegetable. In reality, the orange-colored water that was thrown away was really all the nutrients!

Healthy Cooking Methods

In today’s health-conscious society, more and more time and effort is being put into the selection of healthy food, specifically produce. But many are unaware of how various cooking methods can affect the nutritional value. Should we boil or steam? Stir-fry or grill? What about the safety of microwaving foods?

It is a common belief that raw vegetables have the highest levels of nutrients. But that’s not always true. With some foods, cooking for a short duration at a low temperature, will soften the cell walls. That makes it easier for our body, our teeth and intestinal bacteria, to release certain nutrients into our digestive system.

[box type=”note”]A good rule of thumb is to realize that the more water, the longer the cooking time, and the higher the temperature, the greatest loss of antioxidants will take place. Therefore, the goal is to minimize those cooking variables when cooking either frozen or fresh vegetables.[/box]

The best method for cooking veggies is in a griddle or flat frying pan. Be sure not to use a nonstick or Teflon-coated pan. Most nonstick pans use a chemical called PFOA (for short) in the coating. This chemical has potential carcinogenic effects. Just add a small spray of olive oil to keep veggies from burning. Cook veggies over medium temperature for 15 minutes, without adding water.

Grilling Vegetables

The next favorable method is to grill the veggies. Even though the temperature is higher, the cooking time will only be for five to 12 minutes. Again, no water is used. Avoid charring the vegetables. That means they have been on the grill for too long at a high temperature.

Sautéing or stir-frying is another excellent way to preserve nutrients in vegetables. This uses medium to high temperature but no water and a very short cooking time.

One cooking method that may be a surprise for its high retention of antioxidants, is microwaving. Add no more than 1 tablespoon of water for each cup of vegetables. Cook at a high wattage but for a very short amount of time, generally two to four minutes. Use a cover on a microwave safe bowl in order to maintain moisture and ensure even heating.

Least Effective Methods?

The least effective methods of cooking to retain anti-oxidants , are steaming, baking, slow-cooking, deep-frying, and boiling. This is because of the length of time to cook. To increase the effectiveness of the steaming method, be sure to only cook veggies until they are “al dente”, or somewhat firm.

When vegetables are cooked in a slow-cooker, they usually are cooked at low temperatures, but the cooking time is quite lengthy. Therefore, be sure to include the cooking liquid in the recipe itself. That’s because the liquid is where the leached-out vitamins are contained.

Deep-frying is seldom recommended because the fat used for cooking will penetrate the food and raise its calorie content. It is also a high-temperature method.

Boiling is a method that scores low with all the variables of the cooking: water, length of cooking time, and temperature. In fact vegetables that are boiled lose 50% of their antioxidant value! Food is usually boiled in far too much water, as in the case of my childhood carrots. If boiling is the preferred method of cooking, be sure to only put in enough water to ensure that when vegetables are crisp-tender, there are only a couple of tablespoons of water left in the pan. Another boiling method that is an improvement over the “old-school” method, is called “flash-boiling”. That means putting the vegetables in boiling water for no more than two minutes. Then immediately rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process.

Remember that your responsibility for good nutrition goes beyond the purchase. A critical factor is the method used in preparing that nutrition.

Author Bio

DiAnna is a writer of health related topics. She loves to provide valuable information to people looking to learn more health tips and read health advice. Her work is currently being sponsored by popular websites. One of these sites is Gelish Magneto. Gelish Magneto is a new nail product that uses magnetic technology to create new unique designs.


The LDwriters network provides quality content to multiple sites. Our writers provide original content by experience and detailed research. If you are looking for free online content, then our writers are perfect for you.

2 thoughts on “Smarter Vegetable Cooking

  • April 25, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Hello Ben,
    Thanks for commenting on DiAnna’s article.  She is a writer for our writers group.  You can contact her at
    She always welcomes the opportunity to connect with people online who have similar interest as her.

  • April 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Hi Dianna,
    What a great article, I’ll definite spread the word on my site Please drop me a line if you have anymore article, or evidence of vegetables, and or any foods that would lose nutritional content.
    I’ve already book marked your post.


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