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Are Microwave Steamed Vegetables Healthy?

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When in hurry, steaming veggies in a microwave is easy and quick. It is great meal prep to add fiber and nutrients to your recipe. 

Whether you are steaming carrots, broccoli, spinach or peas, is it really true that steamed vegetables are healthy compared to consuming as raw? 

Are microwave steamed vegetables healthy? Microwave steaming is a healthy way to cook vegetables to prevent from losing nutrient. This method helps maintain water-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C and B that is not leaked into cooking water. 

Boiled veggies may lose nutrient due to contact with water. The discarded water after boiling contains much of the nutrient loss.

If you are looking for healthy ways to eat fresh or frozen vegetables, microwave steamed vegetables definitely helps to minimize nutrient loss. Steaming veggies soften them and improves the texture, ultimately making them more digestible. 

Just place the veggies to be steamed in a large bowl with a slight water layer at the bottom. Cover with a microwavable lid and microwave on high till they become tender. 

Cooking veggies can result in some beneficial compounds like lycopene for the body. Microwaving vegetables is healthier to achieve steaming as compared to roasting, stir-frying, and baking as it sustains nutrients in them in more proportion. 

In this article, you will learn more about the health benefit of steamed vegetables and tips to properly microwave them without losing nutrients. Find answers to frequently asked questions about the health of microwave steamed vegetables.

Are steamed vegetables good for you?

Generally, veggies are good and steamed veggies are very good for your health. Steaming veggies is a process of cooking veggies in the steam that is released from boiling water, which makes the veggies tender while sustaining nutrients and texture.

Reasons why steaming vegetables are good for you:

  • Sustains flavor and color.
  • Enhance texture by breaking down the harder or tougher cellulose fibers and makes them softer to digest and tastier to eat.
  • Minimize nutrient loss during microwaving process.
  • Uses no oil or fats.
  • Conserve fiber, vitamins and minerals like potassium, phosphorus, and zinc.

Compared to boiling, steaming vegetables also softens the fibers and makes them easily digestible. Therefore, our body can absorb all nutritional goods more easily. 

  • When vegetables are steamed, they only loses about 11% of flavonoids and retains 81% of Vitamin C. 
  • When vegetables are boiled, they lose 66% of flavonoids.

Is it healthy to steam vegetables in the microwave?

Yes, microwaving is healthy and quick way to steam vegetables. We assume that microwaving harms the beneficial compounds in veggies, but the truth is that there is a mild loss of nutrients.

Microwave steaming creates lycopene and other beneficial compounds that are needed by the body. In contrast, nutrient loss is more apparent with other methods of cooking veggies comparatively.

Microwave does not harm food any more than any other regular cooking methods. It minimizes nutrient loss and preserve nutrients on fruits and vegetables.

Steaming in a microwave preserves the veggies of their nutrients, texture, taste, and flavor as the steaming time is shorter. 

In comparison, other cooking methods such as oven or stovetop take longer time to heat and may burn or overcook veggies without caution. So vitamin C and other nutrients leach is avoided in a microwave, making it healthy in its nutritional value.

Do microwave vegetables lose nutrients?

Microwaving is a method to lower nutrient loss. The loss of nutrients is associated with water-soluble vitamins like vitamin B and C, while fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E & K sustain the process. 

As per the Journal of food composition and analysis, microwaves can retain these water-soluble vitamins the most while steaming. For instance, boiling veggies retains 66 percent while microwaving can retain 79 percent of the available nutrients.

Also, it does impact the nutrients, but not in major proportion, and also depending on how you steam them. Moreover, the microwave works on liquid molecules within the food and result in heat. 

To avoid leaching of nutrients, using less water can retain more nutrients. Therefore a few tablespoons is the recommended amount to get the steam going that will eventually release more moisture from the veggies.

As compared to other methods of cooking like stovetop or oven, microwaving retains a lot more nutrients while steaming veggies. Do not overcook as the veggies become soggy and also nutrient breakdown.

Is it better to steam or microwave vegetables?

Steaming or microwaving veggies are both healthy solutions to prevent loss of nutrients. However, steaming or microwaving without any additional water assists in sustaining water-soluble vitamins like vitamin B and C. 

Vitamins leech into the water which is later drained out along with the nutrients. Keep the added water to a minimum to keep nutrient loss down.

Steaming is a process that is considered best for a majority of veggies. This is because it is a gentler process where the veggies are not submerged in boiling water causing the water-soluble vitamins to leech outwards. 

Consider the fact that certain veggies like zucchini, peas, carrot, and cauliflower can lose antioxidants and beta carotene during boiling. They can be saved with steaming, which is a much healthier option.

Microwaving does not need water and it steams veggies from within. Just a little sprinkle of water or water layer on the bottom of the dish should help depending on the type of veggie used. 

Phytonutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients are saved in this process. 

Benefits of microwaving steamed vegetable

The benefits of microwaving vegetables to steam is an endless opportunity to sustain nutrients. However, vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and bruised fruits should be steamed to retain nutrients. 

However, any root vegetables such as carrots or potatoes may need to cut into pieces to reduce steaming time of the dense fibers. 

Here are additional benefits when microwaving steamed veggies:

  • The microwave use heat molecules to heat the veggie and so uses less water and reduces vitamin loss.
  • Minimize nutrient loss as compared to other cooking methods.
  • Uses shorter cooking time intervals or steaming time.
  • Sustains heat-sensitive vitamins such as vitamin B9 and C.
  • The internal temperature is not greater than the boiling temperature, implying the veggie flavor is better preserved.
  • Lesser amount of water, so water-soluble vitamins are not lost in the discarded water after steaming.

Eating vegetables raw is healthy, but not always. The steaming process is an effective way of breaking down certain substances in vegetables to improve digestibility.

Tips for steaming vegetable in the microwave

Many of us like to stir fry veggies or eat them in a salad, but there’s a lot to be said for steaming vegetables. By steaming vegetables, the color, texture, flavor, and nutritional element are better kept. 

Also, it is one of the easiest way to prepare meals and can be done in minutes. 

Follow these specific tips for steaming veggies in the microwave to steam them properly with the lowest nutrient loss.

  • Stir/move often: To prevent food contamination, make sure that you stir or move the veggies often during the microwave. This is essential for even steaming and all-around steaming of veggies.
  • Add a bit of water: Do not use too much water. Sprinkle water or a few spoonfuls depending on the veggie type you are using when steaming in a microwave. This will prevent the leaching of nutrients into the discarded water after cooking.
  • Steam veggies appropriately: Steam veggies for short times just sufficient enough to get tender. Do not overdo it and make them soggy, this will also prevent potential loss of nutrients that break down.
  • Understand your wave: Each microwave model has its setting. Use its power accordingly so overcooking or under steaming is avoided.

Use these general guide to steam vegetables in the microwave. Furthermore, every vegetable requires slightly different cooking time to be fully steamed. 

  • Broccoli: In the microwave, it takes about 3 to 5 minutes for broccoli florets to change color and become tender.
  • Carrots: Always slice carrots about ¼” thickness to microwave for about 5 minute to steam.
  • Cauliflower: For microwave steaming, cook cauliflower for 3 to 4 minutes. Ensure to divide into bite size florets when microwaving for even doneness.
  • Peas: It takes about 1 to 2 minutes to steam peas in the microwave. Do not overcrowd the peas and start with a small amount for best results.
  • Spinach: Place spinach and water in a microwaveable bowl, and cover tightly to microwave for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

Not every vegetables steams the same. Root vegetables require cutting into small pieces to steam fully. 

Follow the recommended cooking times to avoid vegetables that are too soft and to keep the majority of nutrients intact.

Best way to microwave steam vegetables

Steaming veggies in the microwave is easy and quick. The best way to do this is by placing the veggies to be steamed in a dish without overcrowding. 

Sprinkle water over the top or add a couple of spoonfuls of water into the bottom of the dish. Microwave on high and steam the viggies until tender.

Follow the steps to microwave steam vegetables:

  • Wash the veggies.
  • Cut them into manageable-sized pieces.
  • Transfer into a microwave-safe bowl or microwave steamer.
  • Add in 1-2 tablespoons of water.
  • Pop a microwaveable lid over to lock the steam inside.
  • Microwave high for about 4-5 minutes for tougher veggies like potatoes or turnips and about 3 minutes or less for softer veggies.
  • When they are tender yet crispy, they are steamed. Do not overcook them to turn soggy.
  • Carefully remove the container and cautiously remove the lib being extra careful that the steam doesn’t burn your hands or face.

If you are using mixed vegetable bags to prepare your meal, make sure to follow the bags steaming instruction. Some packaging may allow to place the plastic bag into the microwave. 

Look for special vent on the bag to allow steam to escape when microwaving, and also check the microwave-safe symbol to ensure the manufacture’s recommendations are followed.

Are microwave steamed vegetables healthy

Healthy Microwave Steamed Vegetables: Final Thoughts

It is healthy to microwave steam vegetables. Microwaves use shorter cooking time and so minimal loss of nutrients while other methods use longer cooking time and contributing to more loss of nutrients.

However, if you are cooking bigger veggies or mixture of different types, cut them into bite size pieces.

Other than plastic bag, transfer them into a microwave-safe dish or bowl and lay them in a single layer and splash with 1 to 2 tablespoon of water. If you are steaming multiple portions at one time, then add slightly more water.

Cover with a lid or use a triple layer of damp paper towels to lock in the steam. Pop into microwave on high. 

Depend on type of veggies, you may need less than 3 minute or more than 5 minutes. Check the vegetables by carefully opening the door and use glove to remove the lid.

Stir and add additional 30 seconds to 1 minute intervals until desired texture and tenderness is achieved.  Overcooking jeopardizes the nutrients and causes deterioration, so keep steaming time to optimal doneness.

Steam cooking method very lightly cooks vegetables just until they lose their raw taste before completely turning mushy. Microwaving vegetables are very efficient and rapid, using the liquid inside the vegetables to heat from inside, expedite the steaming process and retain nutrients all around.

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