If you’re trying to avoid the extra fats used in frying, it may be better to boil your vegetables. Adding more vegetables to your plate has many health benefits, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and obesity. Е
f you want to maximize the nutritional value of your vegetables, how you prepare them makes a big difference.
Here, Frances Largeman-Roth, author of Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing, shares common cooking mistakes that make your vegetables less healthy. She also offers helpful cooking tips to keep you on track with your health goals.
You cook vegetables
If you are trying to avoid the extra fats used in frying, it may be better to boil your vegetables. But this method can minimize their nutritional value. “Many water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins C and B, are lost to the water,” says Largeman-Roth.
“So, unless you’re going to make soup, it’s better to roast, bake, stew, or microwave your vegetables,” she explains.
You use only coconut oil
“Coconut oil is great for some things, like making vegan desserts and sauces, but you don’t need to use it to cook vegetables,” says Largeman-Roth. “Coconut oil adds too much-saturated fat to your dish” and can be especially problematic for your health if it’s regular cooking oil, she adds.
Again, “extra virgin olive oil is the healthiest cooking oil,” says Largeman-Roth.
You dress vegetables with oil
According to Largeman-Roth, a tablespoon of butter, while delicious, adds an additional 100 calories and 11 grams of fat to heart-healthy vegetables. In addition, “if you pour butter over your vegetables, you may not appreciate the true flavor of the vegetables,” she adds.
Instead, try drizzling it with olive oil for great flavor and heart-healthy fats.
You fried too much oil
However, don’t overdo it with the oil. Although olive oil is good for the heart, it is high in calories and should be consumed in moderation.
“Start with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a pan with vegetables and stir to coat them. You can add more,” says Largeman-Roth. Remember that “vegetables should not be fried in oil, but should be lightly coated,” she adds.
You consume too much salt
Some people add salt to vegetables before cooking and before eating. But this double dose of salt can undermine your heart health.
“Vegetables are a great source of potassium, which helps counteract the effects of sodium, so if you’re loading your vegetables with salt, it works against those heart-healthy efforts,” explains Largeman-Roth.
Instead, “lightly salt your vegetables before baking and then taste them before adding more,” she says. In addition, you can use other herbs and spices (such as garlic) to give you a special flavor.
While you may love that charred, smoky flavor, this cooking method can have serious drawbacks for your health.
“When you cook meat over high heat, such as on a grill, heterocyclic amines [chemicals that increase cancer risk] can form,” says Largeman-Roth. “This doesn’t happen with vegetables, but you still shouldn’t burn vegetables because other carcinogens like benzopyrene can be formed,” she explains, citing a November 2012 study in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research and Public Health.
According to Largeman-Roth, one way to combat this is to use indirect heat when grilling. “Indirect heat is the less intense heat that you get when you put things away from the flame.” So instead of throwing vegetables directly into the fire, place them on the top grill rack.
Cooking vegetables in less time is also a safer strategy, adds Largeman-Roth.
Do you only use pre-cut vegetables Who doesn’t love pre-cut vegetables? They are convenient, time-saving, and help people prepare healthy meals quickly. Unfortunately, pre-cut vegetables can also lose essential nutrients if they’ve been sitting on the shelf in the store for too long, says Largeman-Roth.
So, here’s what you can do: “try adding whole leafy greens like kale and mustard greens in addition to pre-cut and pre-washed vegetables to ensure your basics are covered,” says Largeman-Roth. In addition, you’ll want to eat them within five to six days-before vitamin levels drop, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
However, the most important thing is to just eat vegetables
Regardless of how it is prepared, it is better to eat any vegetable than not to eat it at all. “I don’t want to discourage anyone from eating vegetables ever,” says Largeman-Roth.
“So, if you and your family can only enjoy broccoli with cheese sauce, that’s totally fine,” says Largeman-Roth. “You’re still getting the benefits of the broccoli – just keep in mind that you’re also getting the extra calories and sodium from the sauce.”
“Plus, you need some fat to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K,” she adds. So enjoying broccoli with cheese sauce is not a bad idea.