If you’re trying to cut back on your microwave use, there is no reason you need to subsist on raw cauliflower or kale. Joy Feldman, NC, an integrative holistic-health nutritional consultant and health coach, provides her ranking of the healthiest and most flavorful cooking methods.
Not only does steaming preserve flavor, aroma, vitamins and antioxidants, it also decreases the volume of vegetables so you can eat more. USDA researchers discovered that lightly steaming greens such as collards and broccoli increases their ability to bind to bile acids more than if consumed raw. With lower levels of circulating bile acids in the blood, the body uses cholesterol to make more bile, which in turn lowers cholesterol numbers and may confer heart-health benefits. Multistack electric steamers let you cook several items at once and are more energy efficient than stovetop steaming.
The intense heat from the stovetop minimizes nutrient loss and helps maintain vegetable texture and color. High-quality woks are great for rapid, even heating at high temperatures, but you can also use a large, heavy, flat-bottom frying pan for stir-frying just about anything.
Sautéing involves cooking food in a moderate amount of fat (oil, butter, etc.) in a pan over direct heat. Cooking times tend to be longer than stir-frying, potentially resulting in slightly bigger nutrient losses.
4. Slow Cooker
Although heating for an extended period of time, even at low temperatures, will result in some nutrient loss, most of those nutrients can be salvaged if you wind up eating the sauce or cooking liquid in which the food was cooked.
5. Pressure cooking
Exposure to intense heat and surrounding liquids will cause some nutrient degradation, but the rapid cooking time will help offset this. Again, if you eat any surrounding sauces, you’ll recoup some of the nutrients.
Feldman deems baking, boiling, grilling, roasting and toasting as cooking methods to use less often, since they do a comparatively poor job at preserving nutrients and, in the case of grilling, can produce unhealthy compounds. Deep-frying is, in her view, the least desirable preparation method. “In addition to exposing you to inflammatory oxidized fats, frying foods produces cancer-causing chemicals,” says Feldman.
On the other hand, there’s an appropriate time and place for all cooking methods, so when in doubt, let your culinary sensibilities (as well as your nutritional conscience) be your guide.