Vegetable cooking recommendations to achieve optimal balance of nutritional content & digestibility

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 11, 2011 at 2:39 AM

I've heard that cooking vegetables too much can "denature" them and reduce their nutritional value but I also understand that some amount of cooking improves one's ability to absorb the nutrients they contain. Are there any heuristics for determining the optimal balance between over/under cooking vegetables (ie. something like "cook until spongy" or "when it starts to turn a drab color you're ruining it")?

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2 Answers


on August 11, 2011
at 03:43 AM

My rule of thumb for green vegetables is to cook them until they are barely not crunchy, then apply lots of butter or oil.

Broccoli, broccolini and string beans get steamed for 6 minutes then doused with butter or olive oil, and lemon or balsamic vinegar.

Asparagus gets steamed or poached just until a fork pierces the stem without crunching, then butter.

Chard gets sauted with oil and garlic, then simmered in water or stock for 3-4 min. Kale gets the same treatment but more like 12-14 min. Then oil or butter. I also chop and saute the stems in butter.

Brussels sprouts get steamed for about 13 minutes, then sauteed in butter browned slightly, then lemon.

Artichokes get steamed for about 40 min, +/-, depending on size and toughness, then each leaf is dipped in butter and lemon before eating.

I don't have a lot of scientific reasoning for this, except that the veggies taste great like this, and always digest well if there is enough fat. Without the fat, they can be hard on my stomach. There is research that the nutrients are much more available if paired with fat, so this all makes sense to me.



on August 11, 2011
at 05:18 PM

Mostly I steam my vegetables. Some are poached (Asparagus for example). Depending on my mood, I either eat them straight up with a bit of salt/pepper to taste, or I will then finish with a lovely butter bath and perhaps some chopped up bacon bits mmmmmm bacon.

Spinach or Kale i usually do up similar to UncleLongHair's chard (any relation to Professor Longhair?) - lightly sauteed with butter/oil, garlic and shallots (and bacon).

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