Steaming vs. Boiling: Secret To Maximizing Nutrients

Is the potato on his plate healthier than yours?

Quite possible actually! Because how we cook and eat the foods impacts the amount of goodness we derive out of them. I have lately been quite obsessed about ‘maxing’ nutrition from what we eat. This actually is my brand of conservation: maxing ‘quality’, not just quantity, ‘coz I believe both processes deliver sustainability, and we often fall really short on the quality front.

Last year in a post I wrote about why it is important not to chop the vegetables in very small pieces and to cook them as near ‘whole’ as possible. Also about the fact that we should ideally wash them and then chop and cook right away, and avoid leaving them in water for too long after cutting, as that leads to leaching of most of the electrolytes. And the most important benefit (besides fibre) that we derive out of vegetables and fruits is the disease arresting nutrients that they deliver in masses (antioxidants, enzymes and the like).

So some of the other steps I follow and you can too to ensure that I max their disease fighting potential are:

1) Buy freshest produce possible – Buy as far as possible locally grown produce. The sooner you eat a fruit or vegetable after it’s picked, the better it is nutritionally for you. Tastes better too. Also remember that the vegetables that ripen fully on the plant will have more nutrients as compared to those that are picked early and allowed to ripen in storages. By the way frozen vegetables are often just as healthy as fresh veggies because they often come right out of the field, and are blanched and frozen immediately.

2) Keep the skin on – You’ll be surprised to know that potato skin has almost as much protein and even more fibre than its flesh. B and C vitamins are concentrated in the skin and so are iron, potassium and magnesium. So when you peel it off thickly, you are junking half the goodness of the good o’l potato literally! Ditto for most other vegetables and fruits. Max the potential of apples too by biting in with the skin on.

3) Steam instead of boiling – We all know that frying is passe’ for healthy eaters, but not many know that steaming is a far better way of cooking as compared to boiling. It’s the best actually for maximum nutrient retention and also of other beneficial plant chemicals like glucosinolates and chlorophyll. It also ups antioxidant availability some research shows.

Steamed vegetables retain maximum nutrients

In fact a study found that broccoli cooked in the microwave lost up to 97 percent of its antioxidant content but lost only 11 percent when it was steamed. And of course the texture and taste both are far better when steamed compared to boiled (who likes squishy stuff). I am all for cooking as briefly as possible and steaming helps me do that plus keeps my food looking good too. Boiling is okay only if you intend to have the water in which the food is boiled too (like in the case of soups), otherwise stick to steaming. Get a good steamer if you find the process cumbersome. It’s a super worthwhile investment. And when eating out too, look out for dishes that are steamed. Your body will thank you for it.

4) Slow down – Please eat mindfully. Take time to chew and enjoy your vegetables. The age old rule says chew each bite 20 times but if that is too much for you to fathom (forget practice) then do your best. Remember the more you chew, the more you will break down vegetables, resulting in better absorption of nutrients in the gut.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog. 

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan   

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