Cooking Vegetables: Steaming vs Boiling

Earlier this week I told you that minerals are so great because they are not very easily destroyed like some of the other nutrients out there. For example, let’s look at the vitamin C content of a green vegetable (broccoli, kale, whatever). Vitamin C is very sensitive to water, air, and temperature. So, when the green vegetable is boiled or steamed for a few minutes, about 25% of the vitamin C content is destroyed. Another 25% is destroyed if these veggies are frozen. And if the vegetable is cooked for 10 minutes or more, we lose over half of the vitamin C content. Another example would be folate. We learned last week how important this B-vitamin really is. However, did you know that even though one serving of garbanzo beans contains about 70% of your daily folate needs, almost half of this folate is destroyed once the beans are cooked? Not to mention the other things that interfere with folate absorption, such as alcohol, antacids, ibuprofen, aspirin, cholesterol or blood pressure medications, and some antibiotics.

Discouraging, right?

Well, it’s a different story with minerals. Minerals are retained better when foods are cooked, so we are more likely to get the full mineral benefits of eating the fresh vegetable. However, there is one thing that can take all of the minerals right out of your fresh vegetables, and that is water. When vegetables are cooked in water (as they often are), the water leaches the minerals from the food and hangs onto them. So when you put that piece broccoli on your plate, it has lost many of its minerals and you lose the health benefits of those minerals.

The solution? Steam your veggies. It’s the water, not the heat, that destroys the minerals. And steaming is so easy and makes the veggies taste great, so why not do it?

Really all you need is a simple vegetable steamer. Luckily, the Easter Bunny brought me one this year (see above) so I can finally steam vegetables the proper way. Without the steamer (which was $8 at Sur la Table), Ed and I had to get creative. Below, Ed is using a colander, a popcorn bowl, and a pot to “steam” three artichokes. The colander ended up burned, but the artichokes were delicious and full of minerals! 10 points for creativity on his part, but I think the $8 steamer was a good investment.

Have a great weekend!


  1. I was just trying to explain this steamer device to Jenny yesterday on the phone--and you provided photos, yay! Thank you! I am also glad to be reminded that I have yet to do artichokes this year. watch out ryan.

  2. I dont think that steam basket will impart the same signature smoked taste to Ed's artichokes. But I did think it was the coolest kitchen accessory when I was a kid, and would only eat broccoli if it came out of the 'spaceship'.