We all know that vegetables are good for you. But what’s the healthiest way to cook vegetables?
Eating raw, well-washed veggies is probably the healthiest way to reap all of the health benefits they provide. “The worst thing you can do to a vegetable is boil it; the flavor and nutrients end up in the water, not the vegetables,” says Teresa Dotson, M.S., R.D., C.D.N.
Boiling is also the best way to make vegetables taste like mush, so we consider this knowledge a win for your taste buds.
If you don’t want to go raw, there are three other techniques we recommend. We’ll start with the least healthy and work our way down to the healthiest.
The Healthiest Ways to Cook Vegetables
Roasting is a healthy way to bring out the flavors of your vegetables and to make nearly any veggie more appetizing, thanks to the natural caramelization that roasting does to their natural sugars.
It’s a great way to enjoy the sweet and savory flavors of vegetables.
“Roasting vegetables helps bring out their sweetness and can be very helpful for those with sugar cravings. Using a variety of root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and beets produces a beautiful, and tasty, result,” says Adrienne Raimo, R.D, L.D.
In order to save time, combine the vegetable(s) with a dish that can also be roasted at the same time.
Add similar spices or flavors (for example, citrus zest or smoked paprika or crushed red pepper) in both dishes to enhance whatever healthy meal you’re putting together. Throw in fresh herbs, or a little salt and pepper, for even more flavor.
Try These Roasted Vegetable Recipes
- Roasted Butternut Squash
- Roasted Broccoli with Peanuts
- Honey-Roasted Carrots and Beets
- Rosemary Roasted Yams
A cousin to sautéing, stir-frying is best done over high heat. You’ll want to constantly move the contents of the wok (or pan) around to prevent your veggies from burning.
This method exposes veggies to high heat very quickly and results in tender-crisp vegetables that retain more nutrients than if they were exposed to heat for a longer period of time.
As long as you stick to the proper methods and don’t over-do it on the oil, this is a pretty solid healthy cooking method.
Make sure to pick a cooking oil that can stand up to the heat.
“Be careful not to add sauces that are high in sodium or fat,” says Dotson. “Cooking with wine is great because it adds flavor but little extra calories (and the alcohol burns off at high temperatures).”
Try These Stir-Fry Recipes
- Shrimp Stir-Fry
- Spinach and Tofu Stir-Fry
- Bell Pepper, Snap Pea and Zucchini Stir-Fry
- Asparagus Stir-Fry
Not surprisingly, steaming is the healthiest way to cook vegetables.
Steaming vegetables is also the most efficient. A gentle steam is best; it allows vegetables to maintain their nutrients because the vitamins and minerals don’t leak out into the water you end up discarding.
“Steaming is one of the best ways to retain nutrients, and tends to be one of the quicker methods of cooking vegetables,” says Raimo.
Steaming can also help you knock out meal prep like a pro, as you can put lots of veggies in the same pot to cook as long as they share similar cook times.
Don’t switch off the burner when one batch is done; pile the next round of veg into the steam basket and repeat.
But remember: The best way to cook vegetables is the way that you will eat them!