By Shorog Hantoush
Could the way you cook change food’s nutritional composition? Antioxidants have a strong therapeutic potential in disease prevention, but this potential is affected by cooking. While steaming, boiling, microwaving and frying help make certain foods more digestible and tasty, they all have a different impact on antioxidant activity. Read on to discover how your cooking can alter a food’s nutritional value, and how you can keep more antioxidants in the food you prepare.
Boiling, Frying, Steaming or Microwaving: Which Way is Best?
Scientists at the University of Medical Sciences in Iran demonstrated that different cooking methods have different effects on the antioxidant activity in vegetables. Some evidence points to microwaving as the better cooking method for preserving antioxidants because only a small amount of water is used, and cooking times are short. That said, because of the way microwaves work—by channeling heat directly into the molecules of food via radiation—some believe that this cooking method destroys all nutrients in the food. Deep-frying also destroys nutrients—and with deep fried foods being linked to chronic inflammation and heart disease, this is just one more reason to avoid them.
A study published in the World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences found that boiling broccoli for 15 minutes significantly reduced anti-oxidant content compared with microwaving it for 2 minutes. Researchers from the University of China found that stir frying broccoli also caused significant antioxidant loss. However, when broccoli was steamed, it retained more of its nutrients. In both these studies microwaving and steaming were the most nutrient-friendly cooking techniques.
But it was steaming that won the contest—researchers found that it beat microwaving when it came to preserving both nutrients and flavor.
That said, steaming isn’t always the best way to go. Some vegetables fare better using different cooking techniques.
Stir-frying and Roasting
When it comes to peppers, scientists at the National Academy of Agricultural Science in Korea showed that boiling and steaming significantly reduced antioxidant activity by between 20.1 – 60.5%, while roasting and stir-frying only reduced antioxidant activity by between 4.9 – 17.9%. If you want to get the most out of your peppers, lightly stir-fry them, or roast them in the oven.
Grilling and Microwaving
Researchers at the Mushroom Technological Research Center in Spain demonstrated that frying and boiling mushrooms induces severe nutrient loss and reduces antioxidant activity. But grilling or microwaving mushrooms preserved more of their natural goodness. Scientists at the Food Science Department in Spain found the same is true for carrots, garlic and green beans. Grilling isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when we think about cooking vegetables; but perhaps it is time we start making use of it. Why not try our delicious (and super quick) stuffed mushroom recipe?
When it comes to healthy cooking, and keeping as many nutrients in your food as possible, four basic rules apply:
- Avoid deep frying. Not only does this destroy the nutrients, it delivers a high dose of saturated fat and damaging free-radicals.
- Don’t over-cook. Keep an eye on your vegetables and cook them lightly so they still have a little bit of bite.
- Use steaming to preserve as much goodness in your food as possible.
- Also aim to include a good portion of raw fruits and vegetables each day—vegetables like spinach, carrots, cucumber, celery, tomatoes, courgette, peppers, etc. can be made into a zesty fresh salad bursting with antioxidants; (why not try our super quick and tasty salad recipe?).
Finally a healthy diet is one that contains plenty of raw and cooked fruits and vegetables; as well as whole grains and healthy fats. Cook your food lightly, make yourself a fresh side salad, and enjoy a plate-full of healthy disease-fighting antioxidants!References