Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vegetables: steamed vs. boiled.

What happened to the food pyramid?
 I consider myself a fairly well-informed, health conscious eater. I try to get lots of fruits and veggies, focus on lean proteins and whole grain carbohydrates and occasionally try to read up on the latest trends in healthy eating...like this crap about grains not being healthy for you.

As a scientist, I am always confused by the SCIENCE behind WHY something is good for me vs. bad for me. When it comes to vegetables...I am tired of being confused. I have heard that steamed veggies are better than raw veggies, that either of those are better than overcooked, blah blah blah.

So why, exactly, is steamed the best way to eat certain veggies and why is overcooked so bad?

According to The Learning Network(that's TLC, by the way), heat can degrade nutrients...so if you cook vegetables too hot, you can lose nutrients. HOW THE FUCK DOES THIS HAPPEN? Ok, so some things break down when you heat them. That’s fine....but where do they go? If I cook something, the nutrients magically disappear? If that’s what happens to nutrients, how the fuck do we ingest anything healthy EVER? And why does no one bother to actually say this when they say to eat steamed vegetables? Why do they use scare tactics, without backing their claims up with science??

Oh, you wanted to be healthy? That’s too bad because all this vitamin A just EVAPORATED INTO THIN AIR.

According to livestrong.com, steaming veggies to a certain point actually makes them healthier, because the heat breaks down the cellulose that is inherent in plant cells. Cellulose is really hard to digest...that’s why cows have like, four stomachs. Are you a cow? No, so cooking your vegetables helps your poor, overworked stomach out. Because your stomach is clearly working overtime to process all those McDonald’s cheeseburgers and doesn’t have time to deal with all that cellulose from your iceburg lettuce salad....

Ok, so steamed veggies are better than raw veggies in many cases..I mean, people do research and stuff on this.
Wait, what do you mean this doesn't count as a fruit?

So why are steamed veggies better than boiled veggies? What happens at the magic point when steaming becomes boiling? And yes, I am aware that there are some inherent differences in steaming vs. boiling, like when you steam stuff it’s not actually sitting in the water....but whatever. If you’re like me and you don’t have a steamer, you just boil stuff in a small amount of water until it turns bright green and pretend that you steamed it. Hey man, if it’s bright green, I assume it’s healthy....(hello, Midori!)

But still...why is steamed better than boiled? Apparently, it’s because some nutrients are water soluble. What does that even mean? Well, when you cook vegetables in water, these nutrients leak out, and become dissolved in the water. Unless you are drinking your broccoli’s bath water, you’re out of luck with that whole eating healthy thing. So those inherent differences in steaming vs. boiling actually DO matter. The more water you use, and the more contact between the vegetables and the water, the fewer nutrients you get in the end.

So basically, steam your veggies...and avoid boiling them until they are limp and grey....because that just sounds disgusting and you don't get as much out of your veggies. Really though, if I am bothering to eat vegetables, I want them to be as nutrient-rich as possible. Something has to counteract all that booze I drink on the weekends...