Adding vegetables of any kind to your diet is a step in the right direction, however, cooking processes like boiling or steaming vegetables can cause nutrients to leach out into the cooking water. While steaming can have it's benefits, most nutrients are best preserved when vegetables are eaten raw. Veggies are chock full of fiber and cancer-fighting nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals that keep your body's systems in peak shape.
Veggies can be filling due to their high fiber content. Steaming reduces the amount of insoluble fiber in them. Insoluble fiber is the top cancer-fighter. Some veggies have so much fiber, chewing them well is actually necessary to start the digestion process.
Antioxidants and Nutrients
Depending on the vegetable, cooking may actually have added benefits.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C breaks down almost instantly when it hits the heat. So, when considering steaming vs raw veggies, if high levels of Vitamin C are your goal, raw is best! Toss a few tomatoes on a spinach salad to help get maximum benefits.
- Lycopene: Tomatoes' super antioxidant, lycopene is responsible for attacking free radicals, which help prevent heart disease and cancer. It is also increased when cooked, making marinara sauce an excellent cancer fighter.
- Carotenoids: Carotenoids are the powerhouse antioxidants found carrots, borccoli, zucchini and asparagus. Their levels rise when heated, so a little steam, though it may ruin the Vitamin C, will bring out the beta carotene, making them even more beneficial. Be sure to steam until just al dente. Mushy veggies means that most of the nutrients have left, along with the crunch.
Plus Side of Steaming
Don't shy away from your veggie steamer all together. Some nutrients, even in reduced amounts, are more easliy absorbed after a little cooking, most likely resulting in the same or nearly equal net gain of the nutrient after digestion. On top of that, the vegetable may be better digested when it's cooked a bit. Stick to steaming, rather than boiling, and only do so for 30 seconds--1 minute to retain most nutrients, fiber and flavor.
When preparing your veggies, try to include both steamed and raw veggies in your meals. Top cooked veggies, like broccoli or baked potatoes, with raw tomato salsa for the benefits of raw tomatoes, herbs, garlic and onions, all of which have significant health benefits.
When all is said and done, vegetables are healthy and we ned to eat them. If they taste better to you when you cook them, you'll be more likely to consume more, which is the main goal. Although raw and crunchy preserves the most nutrients, steaming isn't necessarily bad. Keep cooking time to a minimum for the nutrient absorption to be at its maximum.