Is Boiling Vegetables Bad?

steamed-vegetablesThough the government recommends 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day, most of us get less than half that. So any effort to eat more vegetables is a good thing.

But not all cooking methods are created equal. Certainly, deep frying isn’t advisable. Neither is sauteing vegetables in copious amounts of butter. But how does boiling stack up?

Though an obvious improvement over grease or butter, boiling vegetables isn’t always the best route. If you place veggies that are high in water-soluble vitamins (like vitamin B, vitamin C or folate) into hot water, the vitamins will leach out. If you’re making a soup, then it’s no big deal; you’ll be consuming the vitamin-rich broth. But if you’re draining the water and then eating the vegetables, you’re losing much of the benefit.

In fact, a Danish study looked a the effect of boiling on broccoli. Because it’s high in water-soluble vitamin C, researchers discovered that boiled broccoli retains only 45% – 64% of it’s initial vitamin C content. Though the numbers will vary from vegetable to vegetable, it’s clear that boiling can have a significant negative impact on the foods we eat.

So what’s the smarter alternative?

The same study found that steamed broccoli, on the other hand, kept 83% – 100% of it’s vitamin C content. Rather than leaching out into the water, steamed vegetables retain the majority of their vitamin content. And if you don’t have a steamer, I once learned a simple trick. Fill a pot with an inch of water, and then place two inches worth of old forks at the bottom. Place the veggies atop the forks and let the water boil! Alternatively, you can always steam veggies in the microwave.

The bottom line: Almost all of us need to eat more vegetables. And steamed veggies are the best option for maximized health benefits.

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  1. If you’re steaming brocoili, and you don’t buy just the crowns, you can do the same sort of thing with the forks method, but with the root of the brocoli. Just slice it 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick, and line the bottom of the pot with the root ends. Pour in enough water to cover the roots. Add the brocoli crowns onto your root bed. Voila!

  2. Davey,

    How does roasting vegetables compare to steaming? I like to place frozen vegetables in a glass baking dish, cover, and roast at 425 degrees until the vegetables are heated through. I do not use butter or oil, but I do sprinkle on some herbs and a pinch of spices to keep the sodium level down. Is this an OK way to prepare vegetables?

    Thanks for always inspiring me to be the best version of myself!


  3. Or you can eat the veggies raw. That would give you all their vitamin content.

  4. Just like Brian, I usually bake my veggies probably the best (if not overcooked)

  5. sylv3st3r says:

    i add frozen veggies to my blender protein smoothies.. frozen chopped spinach, chopped kale, peas, even broccoli if your blender is heavy duty enough.. not sweet enough..? add a banana..

    _ cheers..