Veggie Victim: How to Microwave Vegetables without Losing Taste and Nutrients

broccoli

Kyla Cross

When I'm exhausted and hungry after a long day of classes and work, sometimes I'll skip the stove and oven and go for a quicker cooking option—the microwave. It's convenient and easy. Unfortunately, every time I toss in a bowl of healthy, crisp veggies—like broccoli—after a quick spin they come out a minute later brown and soggy. Standing in my kitchen with an unappetizing plate, I think to myself, is microwaving my veggies making them less healthy for me?

Luckily, soggy or not, the short answer is no. In fact, research shows that if foods are cooked slowly in water (on the stove, for example), important vitamins can leach out into the cooking water, which are then lost when the water is drained.3 Some vitamins and minerals that are lost include:

  • B vitamins
  • Vitamin C
  • Carotenoids
  • Polyphenols
  • Soluble protein and soluble sugar
  • Total glucosinolates

These vitamins are all important for bodily functions. They protect the immune system, have antioxidant functions, are of nutritional value, and have various health promoting effects.3 In other words, cooking vegetables in water is not the healthiest option!

Instead, to minimize the nutrient breakdown when exposing foods to heat, research shows that the cooking method that best retains almost all vitamins and minerals is the one that cooks food quickly, heats the food for the shortest amount of time, and uses as little liquid as possible.

Microwaves can do just that. They use waves of non-ionized (read: not harmful) energy—similar to radio waves—that cause the molecules in our food to vibrate and build up energy, heating our food quickly. In this way, using microwave safe dishes, particularly glass, and a small amount of water turns out to be the best, and healthiest, way to steam and prepare vegetables, according to Harvard Health.

Since 96 percent of Americans own a microwave, I'm guessing I am not the microwave's only veggie victim. Fortunately, we don't need to worry. The bottom line is our microwaves aren't making us less healthy— they're helping our food stay rich in vitamins and minerals!

My recommendation? Next time you're preparing a quick dinner, place your veggies in a microwave safe dish and steam them with a small amount of liquid for a short amount of time. A quick spin and voila: Crisp, flavorful, and colorful vegetables that have maintained their healthy qualities and are delicious, too!

References

  1. LEE, JUNSOO, et al. "Effect of Different Cooking Methods on Vitamin Contents and True Retention in Selected Vegetables." The FASEB Journal30.1 Supplement (2016): 680-3.
  2. Publishing, Harvard Health. "Microwave cooking and nutrition.' Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/microwave-cooking-and-nutrition. Accessed 15 Sept. 2017.
  3. Yuan, Gao-feng et al. "Effects of Different Cooking Methods on Health-Promoting Compounds of Broccoli." Journal of Zhejiang University. Science. B10.8 (2009): 580–588. PMC. Web. 18 Sept. 2017.

About the Author

Kyla CrossKyla Cross is a Michigan native from Clinton Township. She studied exercise science at Illinois State University then received a master's degree in Kinesiology from the University of Michigan. Kyla is currently working on her second master's degree in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. As a former collegiate athlete, she loves working with the University of Michigan performance dietitian as a nutrition assistant, helping fuel and educate student athletes. In her spare time, Cross enjoys hanging out with family and friends, cooking, weight-lifting, running, and practicing yoga.

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