Cooking Vegetables 101

Remember back in the day when you went to grandma’s and she served you brown, boiled broccoli–yuck! That’s a great example where all the nutrients were probably boiled out, leaving the limp cruciferous vegetable looking dull and inedible.

There are certainly some health benefits in eating raw vegetables, but cooking doesn’t take out all the nutrients. And there are benefits to eating cooked veggies as well—they’re more easily digestible, and you can get a better flavor and texture (which means you’re apt to eat more of them).

In some cases, cooking actually increases the health benefit—like tomatoes, where cooking enhances the lycopene content, a powerful phytochemical, which may help prevent prostate cancer. But with most veggies, you do need to take care when preparing them. Once peeled or cut, vegetables lose nutrients to the air, or to any liquid which they are soaked. Vitamins are concentrated just under the skin so vegetables should be peeled very thinly, if at all.

To restore vitamin content when cooking follow these tips:

Do not boil

Boiling vegetables leaches vitamins and minerals in the water, leaving your vegetables with very little nutrition, not to mention lacking taste, color and palatability.

Avoid overcooking

Because there are so many vegetables out there it is hard to have a universal rule for doneness. Try to cook vegetables for as little time as possible. Most cooked vegetables are done when they are just tender when pierced with a fork or the tip of a paring knife. Leafy vegetables should still be bright in color and just wilted.

Grilling and broiling

These cooking methods use high heat and allow vegetables to be cooked rather quickly, which preserve natural flavors and nutritional content.

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a nationally known registered dietitian based in New York and the creator of a proprietary high-fiber nutrition program for weight loss, wellness and for treating various medical conditions. Tanya authored the bestselling weight loss book The F-Factor Diet, and she is the first dietitian with a national line of high-fiber foods, which are sold under the F-Factor name. Become a fan of Tanya on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.

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