Cooking Vegetables without Losing Nutrients

healthy vegetables

We are told that as part of a healthy diet we must half fill our plate with fruit and vegetables.  

But how you prepare and cook them is just as important.  Boiling them to a mushy pulp, smothering them with a rich, creamy sauce or drowning them in oil or fat is either going to destroy all their goodness or ramp up the calories so that all of their benefits will be negated.

So, how do you cook your vegetables without losing too many of their nutrients?

Tips for retaining vitamins during cooking

Store your vegetables in a cool place or in the crisper section of your refrigerator.  Leaving them in direct sunlight will just leave them wilted.

Buy fresh vegetables several times a week.   To ensure your vegetables are as fresh as possible when you cook them, try to get to the market several times a week.

Cooking methods such as steaming, stir-frying, baking and microwaving are healthy ways to cook vegetables with little nutrient loss.

Don’t thaw frozen vegetables before cooking.

When cooking vegetables in water, use the least amount of water and cook for the shortest time possible.   Over-boiling your vegetables is the quickest way of destroying nutrients.

Peel and chop your vegetables just before you are ready to cook them.

When cooked, serve immediately.  Keeping them warm destroys Vitamin C.

When roasting vegetables lightly brush with olive oil rather than filling the dish with fat or oil.

Leave the skin on when roasting pumpkin, carrots, parsnips and potatoes.  Just scrub them clean.

Never soak vegetables in water prior to cooking or add soda to the cooking water.  Both methods destroy Vitamin C.

How to Cook Vegetables to Retain Nutrients

Barbecuing and Grilling

grilled vegetables

Food is cooked over hot embers or under a hot grill.   Vegetables can be threaded onto skewers and brushed with oil, margarine, dressing etc to prevent them burning.


This method is used to precook or parboil vegetables before adding them to salads or freezing.  The vegetables are immersed briefly in boiling water then dipped into cold water to halt the cooking process.  This produces a very bright color and preserves nutrients and flavor.


Add vegetables to boiling water then cover to keep in the steam.  Use only enough water to cover the vegetables.   This method has the greatest loss of nutrients, flavor and color.  Sometimes veggies need to be cooked this way, when making potato salad for example.  In this instance cook only until just tender.


steaming vegetables

Cut vegetables into even-sized pieces and place in a basket or rack over boiling water.  A few minutes cooking is enough for green vegetables, while root vegetables take a little longer. 

This method is preferred over boiling because they cook in steam instead of water.  It produces bright colourful vegetables without loss of vitamins or flavor.


Cook sliced or chopped vegetables in a little oil or margarine in a pan over a high heat stirring occasionally.  If you use a non-stick pan very little oil needs to be used.   Vegetables are often sautéed before adding to soups, stews, casseroles etc.


stir-frying vegetables

Vegetables are usually sliced into thin even-sized pieces to ensure quick and even cooking. 

Heat a little oil in a large frying pan or work.  When the oil is hot add the vegetables and toss and stir to keep them moving so they are well coated.  

Pour in a little liquid.  The steam finishes off the cooking process. 

Excellent for conserving flavor, texture and nutrients.


After cooking vegetables keep any cooking liquid that remains and use as liquid for sauces, soups and stocks.

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