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!


The Major Minerals, Part 3: Magnesium, Potassium & Sulfur

This is the third and final day of major minerals. I know it may seem a little dull, but my hope is that you are realizing the importance of each of these tiny nutrients. And that you are also seeing the bigger picture: our diets must be balanced and varied. Things like counting calories, eliminating fats, or eating the same thing for breakfast every morning are not going to cut it. If we do those things, our body will be lacking in some major nutrients and our weight, mood and overall health will suffer. We need to eat fresh foods, not processed foods. We need to recognize the fact that processed foods and things like alcohol, sugar, and some medications can really interfere with our nutrient absorption. If we understand how these relationships work, we can make better decisions to support our health.

Just some things to keep in mind! Moving on…


Magnesium plays a role in metabolism through enzyme activation and energy production. It is also vital for cell reproduction, as well as brain, heart, liver and kidney health. So, pretty much everything in your body depends on magnesium! And despite this, magnesium deficiencies are very common. Many people are consuming enough magnesium, but are not absorbing enough magnesium. Things that reduce absorption and/or increase secretion (before utilization) of magnesium include alcohol, high calcium intake (especially if you are taking calcium supplements), diuretics such as coffee or tea, liver or kidney disease, and oral contraceptives. Some signs of a magnesium deficiency include fatigue, mental confusion, irritability, heart problems, muscle cramping, loss of appetite, insomnia, and stress.

The best food sources of magnesium include tofu, legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and (as always!) leafy greens.


When we think potassium, we think bananas. It’s just one of those things – like milk and calcium. But in reality, bananas are not the best food source of potassium. They are high on the list, but other great sources include potatoes, avocados, tomatoes, cantaloupe, chicken, salmon and lima beans.

Potassium works with sodium and chloride to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance inside and outside of our cells. It also helps maintain acid-base balance inside our body – something that is critical to our health. Remember, disease only grows in an overly-acidic environment. Potassium is also important for muscle and nerve cells, and heart, kidney and adrenal function. Low potassium levels are linked to high blood pressure, and depletion can occur when someone has diarrhea, excessive sweating or vomiting. Some signs of a potassium deficiency are muscle weakness, fatigue, mental confusion, irritability, and heart problems.


Sulfur stabilizes proteins, forms parts of the B-vitamins, and makes up part of the hormone insulin. Insulin is that hormone we all abuse when we eat too much sugar at once. It’s important, and we want to take care of it, because when it becomes tired and worn out from responding to our sugar habit, it can lead us to disease, especially diabetes. The body’s sulfate intake needs are met as long as there is adequate protein in the diet, so a deficiency in sulfur is rare. The best food sources are any protein-rich foods. A fairly easy mineral – but still important!

Tomorrow I’ll wrap up the Major Minerals with some explanation on the best way to cook vegetables so as to retain all the minerals. It’s simple but very important, and many are unaware of a common practice that is actually sucking all the minerals right out of the vegetables!


The Major Minerals, Part 2: Calcium & Phosphorous

Before we get into these minerals, I want to ask a favor of you guys. Please click on the link below and sign Jamie Oliver’s petition to improve the quality of food in America’s schools and to help improve cooking skills in our country. It’s super easy and fast, and it’s obviously a great cause, so if you can take a few seconds to do it, that would be great! Thanks!

Jamie Oliver’s Petition

Let’s continue with the major minerals… (see yesterday’s post for sodium and chloride).


Calcium’s main function is to help build strong, healthy bones. We’ve been hearing this since we were kids. But did you know that calcium also protects against high blood pressure and colon cancer? It is a powerful mineral that works with other nutrients to perform very important functions in the body. Vitamin D is one nutrient that helps regulate blood calcium levels when dietary intake is too high or too low. If we are not consuming enough calcium-rich foods, the vitamin D will let our bones know that they must release some of their stored calcium into our blood. So, if we are low in Vitamin D we could be also hurting our blood calcium levels. Read more about vitamin D here.

The best food sources of calcium are dairy, kale, turnips, collard greens, cabbage, sesame seeds, and blackstrap molasses. Dairy is so heavily marketed to us as the best source of calcium, but I always tell people not to worry too much if they don’t tolerate milk well or their kids don’t like drinking it. There are so many other great food sources of calcium and many actually contain calcium that is more bioavailable to us than the calcium found in milk. Sesame seeds are great on anything from salads to stir fry, and blackstrap molasses can be added to hot cereals or teas. Kale is my personal favorite calcium source – we eat it in everything! I love how strong and hearty it is, because it hold up well in many types of recipes.

Signs of a calcium deficiency include muscle spasms, muscle cramping, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.


Phosphorous works with calcium in the mineralization of bones and teeth. It is necessary for all growth because it is a part of both RNA and DNA. Phosphorous is also needed for healthy metabolism. It activates enzymes and B-vitamins used to break down our food and create energy.

Since calcium and phosphorous work together, they are both very important parts of our diet. Having one without the other is not enough. Foods containing phosphorous include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, garlic, legumes, almonds and cashews. Signs of deficiency are things like muscle weakness and bone pain.

Tomorrow: Magnesium and sulfur.


The Major Minerals, Part 1: Sodium & Chloride

There are seven major minerals: sodium, chloride, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium and sulfur. The body uses these minerals for bone health, blood health, and maintenance of proper cell function. The body requires more than 100 mg of major minerals daily. These can be supplemented but, as always, are best obtained through whole food sources. Unlike some other nutrients, minerals are not easily destroyed by food processing methods such as cooking or mixing.

It’s easier to digest (pun intended) this information in small pieces, so I am going to break them into three groups. Today: sodium and chloride.


Sodium is the primary regulator of the fluid outside of our cells, which helps maintain proper blood pressure. It also helps to maintain an acid-base balance inside of our body. Sodium is essential for proper nerve impulse transmission and muscle contraction. Sometimes people focus so much on consuming a low-sodium diet that these functions in their body begin to suffer.

High sodium intake is linked to hypertension (high blood pressure). Too much sodium intake can also lead to an increase in calcium excretion. And when calcium is excreted, our body will pull more calcium from the stores inside of our bones, eventually leading to bone density loss and osteoporosis. The best food sources of sodium are Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt, as well as all sea vegetables. These are both whole food sources of sodium. The sodium found in processed foods is not beneficial to us and should be avoided in excess.


Chloride works with sodium and potassium to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance inside and outside of the cells. It is also a component of hydrochloric acid. I talked about HCL a long time ago here. But to refresh your memory, HCL is a stomach acid that is absolutely critical for digestion of food. It works with the enzymes to break down food and deliver it to the rest of our digestive system. HCL is also the body’s first line of defense against things like parasites and bad bacteria. Too many people are unaware of the importance of HCL, and many digestive issues are simply a matter of insufficient HCL. Things that cause a decrease in HCL are antacids (people who pop Tums or Rolaids all the time are likely to have poor digestion), some prescription drugs, high stress levels, or aging.

Back to chloride… Low chloride levels occur when we experience heavy and prolonged sweating (for example, running a marathon), chronic diarrhea, and vomiting. Dehydration also lowers chloride levels. The best food sources of chloride are the same as food sources of sodium – Celtic sea salt, Himalayan salt, and sea vegetables. Since sodium and chloride work together inside our bodies, it makes sense that they come from the same food sources.

Tomorrow: calcium and phosphorous.


On Weight Watchers? Eat McDonald’s.

I want to talk about the major minerals this week, because I just finished learning about them and they’re incredibly cool and interesting and important. BUT, I came across a bit of disturbing information and I have to vent! So, minerals can wait until tomorrow...

Apparently, McDonald’s and Weight Watchers have teamed up and there are now McDonald’s menu items that are Weight Watchers-approved and have points listed next to them on the menu boards. This is kicking off in New Zealand but will surely make it over to the states soon. Does this disgust anyone else?!

This sentence really gets to me:

“Over the past few years, McDonald’s has aimed at offering healthier food items for those weight-conscious customers.” (www.nbcchicago.com)

Let’s be honest: McDonald’s has never been and never will be a go-to for “weight-conscious customers”. Right? I’m not completely against McDonald’s, but I am against them promoting anything on their menu as a health food. It is some of the most highly processed food that exists, and the quality of their meat (and fish, and vegetables) is extremely low. I’d rather have a client eat at McDonald’s very rarely (maybe a few times per year) and order something they’ll enjoy, eat it, and not feel guilty about it, then try to tell them that there are healthy items on the menu.

The other part that gets to me is this: the sodium and preservatives and sugars in these McDonald’s Weight Watchers menu items (Filet-O-Fish, Chicken McNuggets, and Sweet Chili Seared Chicken Wrap, to name a few) are what make our blood sugar fluctuate and send mixed signals to our brain, so we don’t know if we feel full or hungry, and therefore we crave more sugar or sodium.

So it’s just unfair for a leading weight loss company to be supporting this. They aim to help people meet their weight loss goals – and in many cases, they are successful. But, if someone joins Weight Watchers and eats McDonald’s three times per day, because WW says they can, are they really doing themselves a favor? Is their health really going to improve? They may order fewer things than usual, stay within their points, and drop some pounds. But their health will suffer and they will surely gain the weight back eventually. Not to mention they will feel bad after eating McDonald’s. They might have a temporary high and feel great, but the sugar and sodium will cause them to crash and battle another craving. And who wants to be on a diet that makes them feel bad?

I recognize that there are some people who really do eat at McDonald’s every single day, and the new WW menu items may act as a guideline for them when ordering. However, I think WW has some guts to be endorsing this type of food. And, if someone really does want to try to eat healthier, I'd focus on weaning them off of McDonald's, not just altering their order. It goes back to the conclusion I came up with a few months ago when I did a research project on Weight Watchers: they are a weight loss company, but don’t necessarily focus on the overall health of the person.

I’ll repeat what I always say and truly believe: if you are trying to lose weight, focus on fresh, whole foods. As you consume more and more whole foods, your digestion and metabolic processes will improve and your body will become more balanced. This, in turn, will lead not only to increased weight loss but also to improved health in many different areas. You will not only look better, but you’ll feel amazing!

Thanks for listening!!!