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Better ways to cook vegetables


29Brimming with the goodness of vitamins, minerals, fiber and anti-oxidants, vegetables are among the healthiest foods available. In fact, people who consume veggies on a regular basis, research shows, have a lower risk at developing chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 Diabetes, and some forms of cancer.Eating vegetables in raw or cooked form is a highly debatable question since some vegetables are more nutritious when eaten raw while others are healthier when cooked.Application of heat can destroy 15 to 20 percent nutrients in vegetables particularly, vitamin C, folate, and potassium whereas it can drastically increase the lycopene in tomatoes.Asparagus, tomatoes, spinach, mushroom are more nutritious when eaten in cooked form whereas onion, beetroot, bell peppers are healthier when eaten raw.The nutrient losses are highest when vegetables are cooked for a long time on high temperature using excess water. Steaming and microwaving are the best cooking method for vegetables from the nutritional viewpoint and calorie content wise.Microwaving is the quickest cooking method.Olive and canola oil are best suited for cooking vegetables.Cooking vegetables:• By experimenting with cooking techniques, you’ll find novel ideas to entice everyone in your family to up their vegetable intake.• Broiling which involves cooking under high temperature for short time duration isn’t a good way to cook up veggies since they tend to dry out.Microwaving:• Microwaving is perhaps the best cooking method in terms of retaining nutrients, time and water consumption for cooking. Cooking vegetables in the microwave with a small amount of water essentially steams them from inside out.• Since the cooking time is short, cooking with a microwave preserves vitamin C and other nutrients that get lost while cooking.Grilling:• Grilling is a quick cooking method where a hint of smoke from the grill imparts a delicious smoky flavor to vegetables.• It is an excellent cooking technique for getting maximum nutrition without sacrificing on taste.• Before grilling, it is important to coat the vegetables with little oil to prevent them from drying out.• Grilling can be done in a grill pan, oven or a barbeque over medium heat. (To be continued)• Bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, asparagus, eggplant and potatoes are excellent choices for grilling.Fermenting:• Fermenting vegetables in sliced, grated or shredded form in a salt solution or salt and whey solution is an interesting way to eating vegetables.• Fermented vegetables undergo lacto-fermentation, a method of food preservation, which enhances its nutritional value. Bacterial action makes the vitamins and mineralsin cultured foods more readily available for digestion to the body.• You can ferment one vegetable alone or create mix of many different kinds, along with herbs and spices, for variety.Sautéing:• The word sauté is derived from the French verb, which means “to jump”. It refers to the manner in which vegetables added to a lightly oiled pan tend to jump while cooking them.• Sautéing is a quick and easy way to cook vegetables with relatively little oil in a skillet on a medium flame, making it a must include preparation style for weight watchers. Sautéed vegetables tend to retain their nutritive value, as well as taste and color. Sautéing is best suited for cooking tender vegetables, such as asparagus, peas, bell peppers, onions and mushrooms.Stir-Frying:• Stir-frying is very similar to sautéing, with two important differences. Stir-frying is done over very high heat, and the vegetables have to be constantly stirred to prevent them from burning. It is often done in a wok, which is a classical Chinese cooking utensil.• Good vegetable choices for stir-frying include sweet peppers, zucchini, carrots, broccoli and onions.Roasting:• Roasting vegetables is a cooking technique which involves placing vegetables on a baking sheet and drizzling them with a little oil, and popping them in a 400-degree oven. The high oven temperature of roasting, cooks vegetables quickly and caramelizes the sugars on the surface, which imparts a crunchy and sweet flavor. Roasting helps to preserve vitamins and minerals, as well as retain flavor.• Eggplant, bell peppers, carrots and onions are good choices for roasting.Boiling or Simmering:• Boiling vegetables is a quick and easy technique involving cooking vegetables in boiling water. Simmering is another technique for cooking vegetables with water, but at a lower temperature, before the water begins boiling. This slow-cooking technique is suited for dried bean, potatoes, beets and root vegetables that require longer periods of cooking to become tender.Steaming:• Steaming cooks vegetables without submersing them in water, so they are more likely to retain the vitamins and minerals. Unlike sautéing, steaming doesn’t require oil, so it’s a great way to prepare vegetables if you’re watching calories.• Steaming is an excellent cooking technique for vegetables like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, green beans and spinach.Recipe:Roasted Vegetables:Ingredients:• 1 medium onion• 1 medium or 2 small carrots• 1 zucchini• 1 eggplant• 2 small potatoes• 5 small tomatoes• 1 red or yellow pepper• 2 cloves of garlic• Salt and pepper to taste• Dried herbs• 2-3 tablespoons of olive oilMethod:1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (180 C). Slice the onion thinly. Dice all the vegetables into pieces approximately the same size i.e. ½ inch. Place the vegetables onto a baking dish. Season with salt, pepper and herbs and pour the olive oil over the vegetables. Mix thoroughly but gently.2. Place the baking dish in the oven and cook for 45-50 minutes. Halfway through the cooking process, remove the dish and gently stir the vegetables so that the ones at the bottom come to the top.3. Towards the end of the cooking process, stir the vegetables a second time.4. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Serve hot.Roasted VegetablesTips:• Always cut vegetables in big pieces so that fewer vitamins are destroyed when they are exposed to air.• Sautéing and stir-frying are best done with cooking oil which withstands high heat, such as canola oil.• If you want to cook vegetables like green beans or broccoli, add them when water is at a full boil.