If you make an effort to eat more vegetables, you deserve a round of applause. Even if you don’t convert to veganism or adopt a vegetarian diet, eating more vegetables is a step in a healthier direction. Most Americans fail to meet their recommended daily intake of vegetables, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, only 9% of American adults consume between 2.5-3.5 cups of vegetables daily.
When you incorporate more vegetables into your diet, you automatically increase your intake of various nutrients. Most vegetables contain both macro and micronutrients, but they also offer beneficial antioxidants that encourage healthier cells. This is all excellent news, but most people get in their own way, cooking vegetables in ways that dramatically reduce their nutritional content. You made the decision to eat healthier foods, so don’t ruin them with the following cooking mistakes.
You Overcook Your Vegetables
A lot of people advocate for raw preparation of your vegetables in order to preserve the most nutrients. The belief is that many nutrients get lost during the cooking process, but whether raw vegetables are better than cooked ones is still up for debate. Overcooking vegetables, however, can decrease their nutritional levels between 15-55%. You can benefit from eating certain vegetables raw, but others are better cooked. No vegetable is nutritious if you overcook it, though, so keep that in mind.
You Boil Your Vegetables
Some people want to avoid frying and using excess fat, so they decide to boil their vegetables instead. This is the quickest way to reduce the nutritional content in your vegetables, especially if they primarily contain water-soluble vitamins. Vitamin C and B vitamins will leach into the water during the cooking process. Unless you drink that water, your vegetables will be very low in nutrients. You are better off roasting, baking, or sautéing your vegetables, and you can learn more about the best cooking methods by clicking here.
You Use Too Much Salt
People either use a little salt because they are conscious of their health, or they use way too much. Don’t be the person who uses the salt shaker before you even taste the food. You also should not salt your vegetables before, during, and after the cooking process. Most vegetables are great sources of potassium, which helps to lower the sodium content in the body. This is excellent news if you suffer from high blood pressure! That means that over-salting vegetables works against those heart-healthy efforts. Lightly salt vegetables with sea salt before roasting them, and then taste them before you add any additional salt. You can also use other herbs and spices to flavor your vegetables, and they will help lessen your need for salt.
You Abuse Vegetables
What we mean by this is that many people use vegetables as a vehicle for calorie- and fat-laden sauces. Incorporating vegetables into your meal doesn’t automatically make your food healthy. Blending a zucchini into a sauce that contains cheese, milk, and bacon is not a healthy preparation of zucchini. Vegetables need to be the stars of the show! When you prepare vegetables on their own, they have fewer calories and provide more nutrients. Don’t lose sight of vegetables in your meals!
You Discard The Good Parts
Do you throw away broccoli stems? What do you do with beet greens and celery leaves? Do you peel all of your vegetables? If you do any of those things, you are doing yourself a disservice. Too often do people throw away the healthiest parts of the vegetables. Skins, stalks, and leaves are nutritionally dense, and they sometimes contain nutrients that don’t exist in the actual vegetable. The concentration of vitamins also tends to be higher in the parts of the vegetables that people throw out. Step away from the peeler and don’t simply chop and toss.
You Char Your Vegetables
It’s hard to beat that signature charred, smoky flavor that comes from grilling. Unfortunately, subjecting your food to high heat, such as grilling, heterocyclic amines can form on the food. These are chemicals that may increase the risk of cancer development. This happens on all your food, not just vegetables. You don’t want to burn your vegetables because carcinogens can form on them, according to a 2012 study. One way to avoid charring your vegetables is to put them on the second or top rack of your grill. They won’t be exposed to direct fire, but they will retain a smoky flavor.