Veggies: To Cook or Not to Cook

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition

A Nutrisystem Facebook fans asked: “Do cooking or steaming vegetables take away any nutrients?”

The short answer, say Nutrisystem’s dietitians, is yes―in most cases. But how much is lost depends on how you cook the veggies, and how much water you use.

That might seem confusing, but this photo isn’t:

cook veggies
The way you prepare your produce can enhance or detract from it’s nutritional value.

The plate on the left depicts broccoli that has been boiled, along with the water it was boiled in. The green stuff in the water? There are nutrients in there, lost to the cooking process. The photo on the right shows broccoli that has been steamed, as well as the much clearer water used in the process.

The evidence here is why nutritionists recommend lightly steaming or blanching your vegetables for maximum nutrient density. For those who don’t have a steamer basket, blanching is an easy and fast alternative. To blanch vegetables, place them in boiling water for 30 seconds to two minutes, removing the veggies before they start to lose their vibrant color. Rinse them with cold water to halt the cooking process—this will preserve crispness and color. If you’re eating them right away, stop rinsing while the vegetables are still warm enough to eat comfortably.

Not all boiled vegetables are bad: All those colors lost to the water are still absorbed by your body if you end up ingesting the water—like in soups or stews. So a carrot cooked in a stew will leach out plenty of nutrients, but you’ll wind up getting their benefits from the broth.

And, like everything, there are exceptions: Certain nutrients, like the cancer-fighting lycopene in tomatoes, are actually enhanced by cooking. There’s no easy answer to this question, except this: Eat your veggies, any way you can. Your body, energy level, and the number on the scale will all thank you.