Thursday, April 25, 2013
Article # 471. Boiled Vegetables vs. Steamed
The recent Dietary guidelines recommend eating five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Vegetables are high in essential nutrients and antioxidants that can help protect you from chronic diseases. However, the way you prepare your vegetables can influence the amount of vitamins the food retains. Although in many cases raw vegetables are the healthiest option, boiling or steaming your vegetables can also provide surprising health benefits.
To boil vegetables, you add the vegetables to a pot of water, and boil the water for a short duration until the vegetables are sufficiently cooked. One may add salt or other flavorings (such as broth, as you mentioned) to the water prior to boiling.
Steamed vegetables are cooked in a steamer basket, where the vegetables are not in the water, but are instead sitting above the water, and are thus cooked by steam.
Salt must be added to steamed vegetables after they are cooked rather than to the water prior to cooking, since salt does not evaporate.
Steamed vegetables can retain more of their original flavor and nutrients, since they do not leech out into the water during boiling. On the other hand, you cannot add additional flavors to your vegetables during steaming--since flavors cannot soak into the vegetables from the water, either.
Which taste/texture you prefer, of course, can be a matter of personal opinion.
In my experience, boiled vegetables are often mistakenly referred to as steamed vegetables. And often, many restaurants will sell "steamed vegetables" which are really just microwaved frozen vegetables, which may strictly be steamed (it certainly isn't boiled!), but really bears little resemblance to the true steaming process (and has relatively poor flavor, as well).
Heat can cause many vegetables to lose some nutritional value. However, cooking vegetables can also add some nutritional benefits not found in raw vegetables. Researchers in a 2008 study published in the “British Journal of Nutrition” tested nutrient levels in 198 subjects who adhered to a raw-food-only diet. They found the subjects had normal levels of vitamin A and high levels of beta-carotene. However, nearly 80 percent had below-average levels of lycopene, a carotenoid that is a strong antioxidant.
Steaming is a healthy way to prepare your fresh vegetables. An easy way to steam vegetables is to use a steaming basket. Place the vegetables in a steaming basket in a pot containing approximately 2 inches of boiling water. Cover with a lid. The steam from the water will help to soften and cook the vegetables without overcooking them. Steaming certain vegetables helps to retain more antioxidants than other methods of cooking, including boiling. According to a 2008 study published in “Food Chemistry,” steamed broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Choy-sum had higher antioxidant levels than their raw counterparts.
Boiling is the preferred method of cooking certain types of vegetables. A 2008 study in “The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry” found that boiling carrots and zucchini increased total carotenoids and lutein levels. Fill up a large saucepan and allow the water to boil. Add salt to the water, if desired. Boil your vegetables until just tender. If boiled too long, they will lose nutrients.
Drawbacks and Recommendations
Cooking vegetables, whether through steaming or boiling, causes some nutrient loss. Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin B and vitamin C, are often lost during the cooking process. Steaming or boiling your vegetable can cause up to a 34 percent loss of vitamin C, according to a 2007 study published in “The Journal of Food Science.” If you want or need to cook your vegetables, cook them only until you can easily insert a toothpick into the vegetable. Overcooking vegetables can cause them to become mushy and lose their color and flavor.