OUR HEALTH ADVICE – The steaming of foods preserves their nutritional qualities. But playing the variety of cooking methods is also beneficial.
Is steam cooking a health asset? According to the manufacturers, this would be the healthiest form of cooking, to best preserve the nutritional qualities of food, as well as their taste. An argument that sells in the home appliance departments. The marketing is based on solid: a review of the scientific literature shows that steam cooking is most often at the top of the rankings of cooking methods to preserve the vitamins and antioxidant properties of vegetables, all without fat.
Several studies have focused on broccoli, a vegetable rich in antioxidants and cardioprotective properties. The report is clear: steaming preserves these properties better, but also the texture and flavor of the food.
Several elements distinguish it from other cooking modes. In case of frying, the properties of the food are most often preserved, but with a lot of oil or butter. When cooked with water, soluble nutrients are extracted from the food and mixed with the water. They are lost if it is eliminated and not reinstated in the form of juice or to make a soup, for example. As for the grill, it makes it possible to obtain a particular and often appreciated taste, but substances appear during cooking, which can be harmful for the health, in particular for the meats and the fishes.
Vary the cooking modes
Nevertheless, there is no ideal cooking. All cooking methods, including steaming, induce chemical and physical changes in foods and transform their nutritional properties. Thus, the rate of antioxidants can evolve favorably with steam cooking, but not that of other nutrients such as proteins, fatty acids or vitamins.
In fact, the final composition of the food at the time of its consumption will be different for each mode of preparation. However, steam cooking itself comes in several modes: medium or very high heat, slow or fast cooking, steam in the microwave in silicone containers, foil oven or barbecue …
“Steam cooking has its advantages, but the best way is to vary the way it is prepared – as we recommend to vary the foods themselves.”
Dr. Jean-Michel Lecerf
Knowing that heat degrades, for example, proteins, steaming at high temperatures and over long time will eventually alter the composition of the food. So for some foods like thick vegetables, potatoes or meats, steaming may be less interesting than quick frying. Especially since in recent years, lipids have been rehabilitated in the diet.
“They are very important for health and necessary for a balanced diet. Adding for cooking is absolutely not contraindicated. Steam cooking has advantages, but the ideal is to vary the methods of preparation – as we recommend to vary the food themselves, “recalls Dr Jean-Michel Lecerf, Head of Nutrition and Physical Activity at the University Hospital Lille.
“It is important to keep in mind that nutritional properties are better preserved in short cooking, at low temperatures, and without water. All cooking methods can therefore have advantages for preparing all the foods that make up meals, “concludes nutritionist Béatrice de Reynal.