The Healthiest Cooking Methods Explained

  • Share
  • Read Later
Joff Lee / Getty Images

News flash: There are plenty of ways to cook up juicy and flavorful food without adding tons of unnecessary extras. While most people know to ditch the fryer when cooking up healthy meals, many don’t think about how their cooking method affects the nutritional make-up of their entrée.

Heat can break down and destroy 15 to 20 percent of some vitamins in vegetables — especially vitamin C, folate, and potassium. And as you’ll see below, some methods are more detrimental than others. (This is why raw foodists cut out cooking altogether, claiming that uncooked food maintains all of it’s nutritional value and supports optimal health.)

But other studies suggest certain foods actually benefit from cooking. With carrots, spinach, and tomatoes, for example, heat facilitates the release of antioxidants by breaking down cell walls, providing an easier passage of the healthy components from food to body.

The Methods
Microwaving
Nuking may be the healthiest way to cook because of its short cooking times, which results in minimal nutrient destruction. Microwaves cook food by heating from the inside out. They emit radio waves that “excite” the molecules in food, which generates heat, cooking the food. While microwave cooking can sometimes cause food to dry out, that can easily be avoided by splashing on a bit of water before heating, or placing a wet paper towel over your dish. The way that microwaves cook food nixes the need to add extra oils. The best part is, you can microwave just about anything, from veggies and rice to meat and eggs. And studies suggest it may just be one of the best ways to preserve nutrients in veggies; microwaving broccoli is the best way to preserve its vitamin C, for example. Just make sure to use a microwave-safe container.

Boiling
Boiling is quick, easy, and all you need to add are water and a touch of salt. But the high temperatures and the large volume of water can dissolve and wash away water-soluble vitamins and 60 to 70 percent of minerals in some foods, especially certain vegetables. But research actually suggests boiling could be the best way to preserve nutrients in carrots, zucchini, and broccoli (when compared to steaming, frying, or eating raw).

Steaming
Cooking anything from fresh veggies to fish fillets this way allows them to stew in their own juices and retain all their natural goodness. And no need for fat-laden additions to up the moisture. It’s always good to add a little seasoning first, whether that’s a sprinkle of salt or a squeeze of lemon juice. If the carcinogen-fighting glucosinolates in broccoli are important to you, some research suggests steaming could be the best way to cook the little green trees. In the body, glucosinolates become compounds called isothiocyanates, which some research suggests may inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Poaching
The same goes for boiling’s cousin, poaching — no additives. Basically, poaching means cooking the given food in a small amount of hot water (just below boiling point). It takes slightly longer (which some experts believe can decrease nutrient retention), but is a great way to gently cook delicate foods like fish, eggs, or fruit. (Plus, it’s just about the most delicious way to cook an egg in our book.)

Broiling
Broiling entails cooking food under high, direct heat for a short period of time. Broiling is a great way to cook tender cuts of meat (remember to trim excess fat before cooking), but may not be ideal for cooking veggies, since they can dry out easily.

Grilling
In terms of getting maximum nutrition without sacrificing flavor, grilling is a great option. It requires minimal added fats and imparts a smoky flavor while keeping meats and veggies juicy and tender. While these are definitely healthy benefits, not everything about grilling is so good for you. Some research suggests that regularly consuming charred, well-done meat may increase risk of pancreatic cancer and breast cancer. Cooking at high heat can also produce a chemical reaction between the fat and protein in meat, creating toxins that are linked to the imbalance of antioxidants in the body and inflammation, which can lead to an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

This doesn’t mean BBQs are forbidden — just stick with lean cuts of meat that require less cooking time, and keep dark meats on the rarer side.

Stir-frying
While this method does require some oil in the pan, it should only be a moderate amount — just enough to get a nice sear on your meat and vegetables. It’s effective for bite-sized pieces of meat, grains like rice and quinoa, and thin-cut veggies like bell peppers, julienned carrots, and snow peas.

No Cooking!
Raw food diets have gained tons of attention recently, and for good reason. Many studies suggest there are of benefits of incorporating more raw foods into the diet: Studies have shown eating the rainbow consistently reduces the risk of cancer, but the jury’s out on whether raw or cooked is really best overall. On the one hand, since the diet is mostly plant-based, you end up eating more vitamins, minerals, and fiber, with no added sugars or fats from cooking. But while some raw items might be super-healthy, studies have found that cooking can actually amplify some nutrients, like lycopene in tomatoes and antioxidants in carotenoids such as carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, and peppers.

This article  has been read and approved by Greatist Experts Lindsey Joe and Elizabeth Jarrard
Greatist is the fastest-growing fitness, health and happiness start-up. Check out more tips, expert opinion and fun times at Greatist.com.

3 comments
HeshamMostafa
HeshamMostafa

It's an authentic discovery in cancer research. A medical trial disclosed that they managed to diminish 3-year fatality in people that had metastatic cancer malignancy by practically 5 times. You'll find nothing that is similar to this final result in the entire oncological research. I repeat 5 times fewer people deceased in three years when they studied one additional therapy. The therapy took it's origin from this process utilised by roughly 200 Russian general practitioners, and the goal of the treatment is to improve oxygen pressure in body tissues applying the well-known Buteyko respiratory system. These exciting outcomes are described and all aspects of their procedure are discussed in the eBook from Amazon “Doctors Who Cure Cancer”: <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Doctors-Cure-Cancer-Books-ebook/dp/B007IZZ4AQ/">Doctors who cure cancer</a> by Dr. Artour Rakhimov. Once you see someone cancer malignancy, remember to share!

Ocsicnarf
Ocsicnarf

I like stir-frying with olive oil.

mom_of_three
mom_of_three

I don't think you're breaking down the potassium.  That would be a nuclear reaction.