Nuking veggies kills antioxidants

If you often rely on microwaved or heavily boiled vegetables to fulfill your daily requirement of vitamin- and antioxidant-rich food, you may be getting far fewer of these valuable compounds than you think. A new study in Finland found that antioxidants and other cancer-fighting compounds in fresh vegetables, because they are water-soluble, are most easily lost if the vegetables are cooked in a large quantity of water, such as boiling or blanching (Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 2003, vol. 83, no. 14). The researchers also learned that microwaved vegetables can lose up to 97 percent of three major antioxidant compounds. And, although freezing fresh vegetables helps preserve their antioxidant benefits, blanching them before freezing can decrease their antioxidant content by as much as one-third, according to the study.

So how can you get the most nutrition from your vegetables? Steam them, say researchers. Susan Cukiernik, RD, a New York–based medical nutritionist and behavior therapist, suggests steaming vegetables over nutritious broths or fruit juices to add flavor while retaining antioxidant powers.

Or brush fresh produce with a little olive oil, and grill them in a pan or roast them in the oven.

—Christine Spehar