How Should I Cook Vegetables?

  • Author:
    Betty Kovacs Harbolic, MS, RD

    Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Ask the experts

I've heard the phrase "boiling the vitamins out of the vegetables" many times. Does cooking vegetables really destroy the vitamins and nutrients? Is there a limit to how long you should cook your vegetables to retain the necessary vitamins?

Doctor's response

There is some truth to what you have heard. While boiling can have an impact on some nutrients, it does not affect all of them, and it is not the only thing that affects them. If you are looking to get the most out of your vegetables, there are things that you can do to preserve the nutrients that are available.

When it comes to vitamins, the two most susceptible to damage are the water-soluble vitamins B and C. As their name implies, they are soluble in water, which means that they can be absorbed into the water when soaked or cooked in it. If you are going to be consuming the water, as with soup or sauces, you will be consuming the vitamins as well. When you are not going to consume the water, the best method of cooking vegetables would be microwaving or steaming.

The next thing to do to preserve the nutrients in your vegetables is to cook them as quickly as possible. Studies have shown that a quick cooking time helps preserve the heat-sensitive nutrients, vitamins B and C being two of them. Microwave ovens use less heat than most other cooking methods, and studies have shown that nutrients are less susceptible to destruction when cooked in the microwave for this reason. The goal is to keep your vegetables from getting overcooked and soggy. Cook them quickly, with as little water as possible, and you will be getting the incredible nutrients that vegetables are so great at providing.

Medically reviewed by Robert Bargar, MD; Board Certification in Public Health & General Preventive Medicine


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Reviewed on 8/10/2017