Steaming vegetables when making lunch or dinner is a great way to ensure that the vital nutritional content of these life-giving foods isn’t literally lost in the water of boiling. Nutritional scientists have proven that vegetables lose nutritional content when they are heated beyond a certain temperature (approximately 140-150 degrees F). Too much heat removes most of their nutritional value and even releases many of the digestive enzymes that help your body digest them, making your body work harder digesting your meals. While you can’t really add nutritional value to a vegetable, no matter how you prepare it, you can help it to retain more of its flavor and nutritional value by steaming.
Blanching is a type of steaming process where the prepared vegetables are kept in a pot or bowl of ice water prior to being placed into a pot of boiling water. The boiling water will normally be salted so as to form a barrier between the boiling water and the vegetable being prepared. The vegetables are removed from the ice water and placed in the boiling water for thirty to sixty seconds. The ice water and salted water will be boiled off and steam the vegetables. After about thirty seconds you need to test the vegetables with a fork. If they are crispy outside and softer inside, they’re done and need to be removed from the boiling water and placed back into the ice water. Again, a vapor barrier will form temporarily around the vegetables, steaming them a little further, until the ice water stops the cooking process.
2. Flavored Steaming
If you already steam your vegetables, or want to add some flavor variety to them while cooking, you can sprinkle some garlic or seasoned salt and pepper over them as you steam them. You can add light soy sauce or teriyaki sauce to the water to add a slightly sweet and sour flavor to the vegetables. For a spicy kick, add some Cajun sauce to the water. Experiment with different flavor combinations. Use a garlic press with diced jalapenos and garlic and press the juices into your boiling water to infuse your vegetables with a spicy garlic flavor. The garlic is also heart healthy, so, even though you’re not adding nutritional content to the vegetables, you’re making the dish a bit healthier.
3. Use Salted Water
Whether blanching or steaming, adding salt to the water will raise the boiling point of the water, which means the steam created will be hotter and the vegetables will cook that much faster. Faster cooking means less nutritional value is lost during the cooking process.
The faster you cook vegetables, the more healthful content is left in them for your body to use. Digestive enzymes are lost when they are exposed to high temperatures for too long. Also, sautéing and stir frying are great ways to help your vegetables retain their nutritional content, as long as you prepare them immediately prior to cooking, slice them thinly and cook them quickly.