A few weeks ago, we explored the various different forms that vegetables can be purchased in and what benefits and downfalls each option supplied (if you haven’t read it yet, click here!). The bigger question, though, often lies in what happens when that food comes home. What you intend to prepare with the produce you purchase and the way that you prepare it have various consequences on the nutritional content of the “outcome”— the delicious meal that ends up on your plate. Are you frying your vegetables? Roasting them? Grilling them? As it turns out, not all cooking methods are created equal— and the facts may surprise you!
THE METHOD: CHOP UP AND EAT RAW!
The Facts: Raw vegetables are as close to their natural state as they can be without plucking them out of the backyard and eating them on the spot. It is true that the longer fresh produce goes from the time it’s picked to the time it hits your plate, the less nutrients it will contain; so if you’re concerned about the nutritional content of your veggies, you might want to consider planting your own garden or purchasing your produce from a local, seasonal supplier. However, some research suggests that cooking your veggies (through whatever means) can significantly increase the amount of antioxidants that are readily absorbed by the body— so read on for a few more options!
THE METHOD: THROW ‘EM ON THE GRILL
The Facts: While grilling meat can create chemical reactions that release harmful toxins and carcinogens (according to several studies), grilling vegetables doesn’t pose the same potential health risks. Toss your chosen vegetables in some marinade and let them soak; then skewer them and place them on the grill. If you do decide to grill some meat while you’re at it, incorporating vegetables into the same meal is a great way to get free-radical-fighting antioxidants that will help with any potential damage the grilled meat could cause.
THE METHOD: FRYING
The Facts: Contrary to popular belief, a recent study has shown that lightly frying your vegetables in extra virgin olive oil can provide some great health benefits. According to such studies, when vegetables are fried, they retain more of their nutrients and antioxidants than they would in other methods such as boiling. Plus, extra virgin olive oil has some pretty awesome benefits of its own; such as its healthy fat content and a link to preventing heart disease. Just be sure that you’re not using too much olive oil, as it is high in both calories and fat (while both are necessary for our diets). The key is everything in moderation!
THE METHOD: BOILING
The Facts: Boiling vegetables or steaming them can dissolve some of the nutrients in the vegetables— but as this method doesn’t require adding anything extra to the vegetables in order to cook them, it’s a low-calorie option that’s simple and quick; and not all of the nutritional content will be depleted. To decrease the amount of nutrients lost in the boiling process, you can minimize the water to just the bare minimum: Many vegetables only need a small amount of water to cook completely!
THE METHOD: ROASTING
The Facts: Roasting your vegetables is another delicious way to cook them— but aside from being delicious, this method also provides plenty of opportunity to cook tons of flavor and nutrition into the produce. Toss your vegetables in a light amount of oil— preferably olive oil— and create a blend of healthy spices such as turmeric, a little salt, some pepper, and herbs to sprinkle over. You can even create a dry rub instead of using the oil to decrease the calorie content.