I’m not a big fan of the microwave:  I hate the sound it makes; the idea of stray microwaves damaging my cells kind of freaks me out, and it seems like microwaved food is always overcooked.  That being said, my long held notion that microwaving damages vegetable nutrients more than traditional stovetop cooking was wrong.

While I’m personally not about to start using a microwave again, several studies (one dating back to the 80s) confirm that overcooking, not microwaving, is the primary cause of nutrient degradation in cooked vegetables.[1] A study performed with broccoli found that nutrients like vitamin C and broccoli’s cancer fighting compounds, glucosinolates and sulforaphanes, were damaged by sustained heat and water leaching.[2] By altering the microwaving practice (using shorter microwave times, lower intensity, and less water) broccoli’s nutrient’s were preserved just as well as with traditional cooking methods, such as steaming.

The difficultly with microwaving, however, is that it can be difficult to evenly cook the desired vegetables (even with a built in turn table) without overcooking them.  Also, it’s easy to set the timer and let the microwave run past the optimal heating point.  On the other hand, it can be just as easy to over steam vegetables if they are left unattended on the stove for a few minutes.  So, what’s the verdict Personally, I find steaming an easier method to prevent overcooking my veggies, but if microwaving your veggies works for you and means you’ll eat them more often – have at it!  The important thing, whether steaming, sautéing, or microwaving your veggies is to only lightly cook them.  They should retain a bit of their crispness, most of their water, and all of their good flavors.  Better yet, just eat them raw!

[1] Nutrition and Food Science
[2] Agricultural Food Chemistry

Originally posted 2011-09-13 05:47:00.


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