Which is healthier: steaming, boiling, baking, frying (or even grilling)?

Steaming is not always the best approach if you want to maximize the health benefits of your food (file image)

If you’re one of those individuals who constantly steam your vegetables in the mistaken assumption that it’s the healthiest method to prepare, I’m sorry to disappoint you.

Because steaming isn’t always the greatest method for maximizing the health benefits of your meal.

Similarly, while you may believe that eating fresh vegetables provides the most vitamins and minerals, this is not necessarily the case.

Take broccoli for example. Research shows us that eating it raw (I like it grated in salads) maximizes the content of heat-sensitive nutrients like vitamin C and sulforaphane, a compound believed to have cancer-fighting properties.

But cooking broccoli can help improve the absorption of carotenoids — plant pigments with antioxidant properties, including lutein, which can help protect your eyes from UV damage and age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.

Steaming is not always the best approach if you want to maximize the health benefits of your food (file image)

The other important factor is how long you cook food.  The longer you cook or steam vegetables, the more of the water-soluble nutrients become damaged.

The other important factor is how long you cook food – the longer you cook or steam vegetables, the more of the water-soluble nutrients are damaged.

Cooking releases the lutein from cell walls, making it easier to absorb than from raw broccoli.

In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition in 2013 found that cooking — boiling, steaming or microwaving — “significantly increased” levels not only of lutein but also of beta-carotene (another carotenoid converted into vitamin A in the body) and forms of vitamin E.

Cooking can also break down some of the fiber in vegetables which may contain other phytochemicals (beneficial plant compounds) that if we ate the food in its raw form would just poop out.

This may all sound confusing and contradictory, but the point is that if you want to get the most out of your diet, you need to vary your cooking style – don’t stick to the same old routine.

As a rule of thumb, raw vegetables retain more of the heat-sensitive or water-soluble nutrients — such as B vitamins and vitamin C — but cooking food makes other nutrients, such as carotenoids, more absorbable.

There are other important things to keep in mind when cooking vegetables.

While cooking does leach some water-soluble nutrients into the water, you can reduce this by not peeling your veggies (or only after you’ve cooked them): This can cut the leaching for some veggies by nearly half. Reduce. And use as little water as possible – or yes, steam. (The 2013 study I mentioned found that steaming and microwaving retained much more carotenoids compared to boiling).

And use the cooking water (which will contain some of those leached nutrients) in smoothies or soups so you maximize your nutritional hit.

The other important factor is how long you cook food – the longer you cook or steam vegetables, the more of the water-soluble nutrients become damaged or end up in the cooking water.

Therefore, microwaving is a good option, as it offers a shorter cooking time and less exposure to heat. A study published in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology in 2018 comparing different cooking methods found that carrots retained nearly twice as much vitamin C when microwaved compared to boiled.

Other factors to consider are what you add to your vegetables.

Cook tomatoes and you lose vitamin C because this nutrient is heat sensitive, but cook tomatoes with olive oil and it can increase levels of lycopene (a carotenoid shown to help protect our skin from the sun’s UV rays) and other phytochemicals.

Carotenoids, found in many brightly colored fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, as well as carrots, spinach, kale and peppers, are fat soluble, so cooking carotenoid-rich vegetables with a source of fat is likely to boost your absorption.

Did you know?

1685388698 390 DR MEGAN ROSSI Steam boil bake fry or even barbecue

Cooking carbohydrates such as potatoes or pasta and then cooling them increases the amount of resistant starch.

This is a type of dietary fiber that we can’t digest, but that our gut microbes love, so potato or pasta salad can be good gut-feeding options.

Roasting veggies isn’t a bad option (again, I’d microwave them for a few minutes first to limit their time in the oven’s higher heat).

Stir-frying and sautéing can also help unlock more of the goodness of fat-soluble carotenoids — a 2012 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that cooking with oil boosted levels of beta-carotene by a factor.

But cooking this way can lower vitamin C levels—underlining why the best approach to cooking vegetables is to vary how you do it.

The cooking technique doesn’t just matter for vegetables — the protein in egg, for example, is about 50 percent more digestible cooked than raw.

(So ??drinking five raw eggs, as Sylvester Stallone famously did in the movie Rocky, isn’t the most efficient way to feed your muscles protein, because much of it isn’t absorbed properly, resulting in smelly gas and stool.)

And while grilling or barbecuing meat and fish naturally produces a delicious smoky flavor, there are concerns about its possible carcinogenic (carcinogenic) effect.

The biggest concern is that cooking muscle meats – including chicken, beef and fish – at high temperatures, such as under a broiler or on a barbecue, can lead to the production of two potentially dangerous compounds.

These are heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are formed when amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), sugar and creatine (a substance in muscles) react with each other at high temperatures; and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are created when fat juices fall on the coals and produce smoke.

The smoke contains PAHs which are then absorbed into the skin of the food. Both HCAs and PAHs are thought to cause changes in DNA, which increase the risk of cancer (which is why I’m constantly on the case of my family in Australia urging them to cut down on open fire barbecuing).

But you can lower levels of PAHs — by 48 to 89 percent, depending on the food — by draining the drip (which is almost entirely fat) as it’s produced, according to a study published in the journal Food Chemistry in 2015.

To reduce the formation of HCAs, use a garlic-infused oil marinade (with no added sugar) to coat the meat, as this has been shown to inhibit some form of HCA formation, thanks to the antioxidants the garlic contains.

And by microwaving the meat first, the time it takes on the grill or barbeque is reduced and so HCAs can be reduced as well.

Also wrap the meat in foil to prevent direct exposure to open flame – and remove the charred parts, as this is where the HCAs are concentrated.

Take special care when cooking sources of omega-3 fats — that’s salmon, trout, fresh tuna — because these fats are heat sensitive and you don’t want to lose them. So I would steam or fry instead of frying in hot oil.

So what’s the take-home message? Don’t get stuck in a cooking rut: get creative with your techniques – it makes cooking more fun and your health will benefit.

Try this: Herby Seedy Pesto

Bored of boiled and steamed vegetables? Dress them up with this flavorful pesto, which will also help your body absorb more of the fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin K found in kale and spinach. You can also use this recipe as a base for pasta sauce or over a salad as a dressing.


  • 2 cups fresh mixed herbs (a mix of basil, cilantro, and parsley is perfect)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp hemp seed
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: chili pepper or jalapeno

Puree the ingredients in a blender until smooth — add cold water if necessary for a smooth consistency.

This pesto will keep for two days in the fridge, or in the freezer (I freeze in batches with an ice cube tray) for up to a month.

Ask Megan

My friend’s father had stroke-like symptoms, later confirmed to be severe calcium and magnesium deficiencies, causing him to shake violently. All of this was probably due to his long-term use of omeprazole, which I was also prescribed. Do I have to worry?

Patricia Wilkinson, by email.

Omeprazole, a drug widely prescribed for acid reflux, has been associated with an increased risk of low blood magnesium levels (also known as hypomagnesaemia), especially when taken for more than a year and in people with limited diet. Low magnesium levels can also indirectly affect calcium levels.

Symptoms of hypomagnesemia include tiredness, dizziness, muscle twitching and an irregular heartbeat (if you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your GP who can measure your magnesium levels).

Omeprazole is a type of proton pump inhibitor (PPI), a drug that works by decreasing the production of stomach acid.

However, you need a certain amount of stomach acid to effectively absorb several nutrients, including magnesium and calcium.

Long-term use of omeprazole has also been linked to an increase in intestinal infections (stomach acid helps kill unwanted microbes), so it’s worth seeing your GP at least once a year to make sure the benefits of the medication outweigh any side effects. can experience.

  • Email [email protected] or write to Good Health, Daily Mail, 9 Derry Street, London, W8 5HY — please include contact details. Dr. Megan Rossi cannot comment on personal correspondence. Answers should be taken in a general context; Always consult your doctor in case of health problems.

DR MEGAN ROSSI: Steam, boil, bake, fry (or even barbecue): Which is the healthiest?