I have some good news and some bad news about vegetables. The good news: They're packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and other good-for-you, cancer-preventing nutrients. The bad news: By the time those veggies hit your plate, a substantial amount of those nutrients can be lost. Vitamins are sensitive to heat and air exposure, and some are water-soluble, meaning water will absorb them and carry them away. As a result, some cooking methods are better at preserving nutrients than others. To get the biggest bang for your vegetable buck, try these tips:
Put your microwave to good use. Microwaving helps to retain a vegetable's nutrients because it exposes it to very little water. Wash and chop your vegetables, then put them into a glass or ceramic microwave-safe dish with a lid. (Don't use plastic containers, which can leach chemicals into your food when heated.) Add a few tablespoons of water to the dish and place the lid over it, leaving it slightly ajar. Microwave until the vegetables are tender but still crisp — for roughly four to ten minutes, depending on the vegetable and the strength of your microwave. (Tougher, more fibrous vegetables will take longer to cook.) Check them periodically so you don't overcook them.
Learn to blanch. Blanching is a method of boiling cut vegetables for a very short period of time — two minutes, tops — and then plunging them into cold water to stop the cooking process. You may lose more nutrients with blanching than with microwaving, but far less than you would with boiling. This is a great option for people who don't like raw veggies because it makes the vegetable slightly more tender and removes some of the raw taste. Try blanching some asparagus or broccoli and then tossing it into a salad.