Friday, April 30, 2010

Steam veggies for max health benefits

Vegetables are cooked to enhance taste without paying attention to the loss or retention of nutrients. Vegetables are the major sources of vitamins, minerals, fibers, and antioxidants. Some nutrients are found specifically in some particular vegetables and cannot be supplemented by other foods. The essentials nutrients of vegetables may get lost by faulty cooking habits like frying. The nutrients either evaporate with water or are burnt by overheating, thereby depleting the nutritional content of vegetables.
Preparation may not be the most exciting aspect of cooking vegetables, but learning the correct techniques can make a big difference not only in the appearance of the food or the final results, but also in efficiency. Good technique can keep a beginning cook from getting frustrated and help an experienced cook more thoroughly enjoy time spent in the kitchen.
There is a right way of cooking vegetables to help in keeping the nutritional value of the vegetables intact which in turn provides maximum benefit to your mind and body. Given below are such helpful cooking tips:
Start with vegetables that are fresh and preferably in season. When you start out with vegetables at their nutritional and flavorful peak, you will find that little needs to be done to showcase their flavor.
 Try to eat your vegetables as close to their natural state as possible. But if they require cooking, then try not to overcook them. Overcooking can easily destroy the important nutrients in the vegtables, in addition to making them bland and soggy.
 Do not peel your vegetables whenever possible. The nutrients in vegetables and fruits are mainly concentrated just below the skin, so it is better to eat vegetables and fruits unpeeled so that you do not loose any fibers or essential nutrients. You can scrub vegetables and remove any blemishes, but do not peel.
 Wash vegetables thoroughly in clean water under a tap before cutting or chopping to minimize nutrient loss. This will preserve vitamins because if you cut and then wash, there are 90% chances that you are washing away the vitamins too. Also, you will be able to wash the vegetables properly before cutting. If you cut first then it may not be possible to reach to every chopped pieces where invisible sand or soil remains.
 Cut vegetables just before eating or cooking to retain the most amount of vitamins especially Vitamin C. The Vitamin C content of vegetables is lost at a fast rate once the vegetables have been cut or bruised. Larger the exposed area, more the loss. If you are not going to immediately use the vegetables, then cut them in larger pieces and store them in an airtight container in a refrigerator.
Steaming vegetables is always a good choice. It is fast, preserves nutrients, and it works best for fresh vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, spinach (palak) and roots like beets, peas and beans. If you don't have a steaming basket, you can fill a pot with mixed vegetables and add about one and a half inches of unsalted water and cover. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Check often to make sure that the water doesn't evaporate. If it gets too low, just add a little more water. Don't forget to keep the remaining broth for soup or pour it in a nice mug and enjoy the warm flavorful broth.
 Frying food is one of the worst ways to cook. Frying vegetables is very harmful to your health as they absorb huge amounts of fats thus becoming high in calories too and produces cancer-causing chemicals. Grilling foods that contain fat is less damaging than frying because of the less you don't have to add much fat to your food.
For extra antioxidant benefits as well as more variety in flavoring, try tossing with a tablespoon or two of chopped fresh herbs. It is important to use fresh herbs for this. Dried herbs are better used when you are cooking for a long time. Using fresh herbs makes a fresh tasting dish, still allowing the natural flavor of the vegetables to come through. Herbs like oregano, Coriander, Peppermint etc go brilliantly with vegetables.
Vegetables contain vitamin C, vitamin B and foliates, all of which dissolve in water when cooked. This makes the water in which the vegetables are cooked very valuable to your health. So, don't throw away the water used to cook the vegetables, drink it or use it in soups or sauces.
It is ideal to lightly steam vegetables instead of boiling, sauteing, or roasting. The one exception to the rule would be the red tomato. Cooking actually increases its level of lycopene, an antioxidant thought to help prevent certain types of cancer, heart disease, and vision loss.
Properly cooked vegetables should be tender yet firm and crisp. They should neither be hard and tough nor soft and soggy. This not only helps in providing proper taste but also provides proper nutrition to the body.
Now that you know how to prepare and cook vegetables to give yourself maximum health benefits, why not prepare some steamed vegetables at your next meal? They'll taste delicious and pack a powerful punch against cancer!