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Diet and Nutrition

Steaming vegetables in the microwave

04/02/2004

Question:

To steam vegetables for my family, I usually use the microwave as a short cut. I wrap the vegetables in wet paper towel, and microwave for a very short period of time, depending on the portion size. They are still quite crisp and colorful when they are done. I read a small bit in a magazine, though, that said that microwaving vegetables reduces their nutritious value significantly - by something like 90%! Is that true, even if the vegetables are still crisp? I like saving time on boiling water and washing pots, but still want the vegetables to be nutritious!

Answer:

Thanks for your question. I applaud you for continuing to cook nutritious meals for your family (despite our time-crunched world). Many people would opt to go through a fast food drive through than cook!

On to your question. There was a study in the November issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture that indicated that microwaving could cause large nutrient losses in vegetables. However, the researchers used 2/3 cup of water and cooked the foods on full power for 5 minutes in the microwave. The best method to maintain nutrients was steaming in a small amount of water for ~ 3-4 minutes. I have attached a review of the article from WebMD. To maintain the most nutrients in food, it`s best to use the least amount of water and the smallest amount of heat and cooking time possible. Personally, if it`s between using your method or not cooking vegetables because of time, your method sounds perfectly fine and should maintain a good deal of nutrients in the foods you cook. Click on the link below for the WebMD article.

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Response by:

Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Adjunct Faculty
University of Cincinnati