Steaming vs frying: Which is the most healthy cooking style?


A man chops carrots into small pieces. You must be careful about how you prepare vegetables and food/

The taste of food or snacks does not necessarily represent their nutritional composition. And while different individuals choose certain cooking methods for preparing meals, experts point out that some actually provide healthier outcomes than others.

Depending on the type of food, cooking methods such as frying, steaming, stewing and boiling should be used interchangeably, according to nutritionists and food experts.

“Most times people cook vegetables for long hours using large amounts of water but this is wrong,” says King Faisal Hospital nutritionist Rene Tabaro.

He explains that it is important to watch out for the amount of water used because vegetables contain both water soluble and fat-soluble vitamins that react differently when exposed to both heat and water.

“On boiling in hot water for long, water soluble vitamins such as B and C leach out into the liquid meaning that there won’t be anything left for you within the vegetable besides fiber,” he explains.

He, however, suggests that when preparing vegetables, boiling should be replaced with other methods such as steaming.

Joseph Mbabazi, a nutritionist in Kigali, explains that steaming should be done in such a way that the temperature has reduced effect or damage on the vitamins.

“It is possible to wrap vegetables in a foil and place them on top of food or use a porous pan but the temperature should just soften them,” Mbabazi says.

It is advisable to steam vegetables like broccoli because they retain most of their nutrients.

He, however, warns against reckless steaming, microwave cooking and boiling of foods that may not necessarily yield benefits.

In fact a study done on preparing of broccoli found out that people who don’t cook it in the right way could be wasting their time.

Scientists from the American Institute for Cancer Research Annual Research Conference found that broccoli loses its cancer-fighting properties when it is boiled or microwaved.

According to these scientists, the best way to cook the vegetable is to steam it for three to four minutes until it turns a bright green colour.

This way it can enhance its cancer-fighting compounds. Broccoli is an excellent source of sulforaphane, a naturally occurring plant compound that has been shown to be protective against cancer.

Frying of foods

Although most people prefer frying because it takes a shorter time compared to steaming, most people do not consider the dangers of poor frying.

Food should be put in the oil once it has reached that right temperature or the smoke point whereby some compounds become volatile.

“After pouring in the food, frying should be done in such a way that food should not be over fried to obtain black specs. These specs are foreign to the body and cannot be digested. Most studies have even associated them with cancer,” Mbabazi adds.

It is healthier to prepare meat with other condiments such as carrots and onions to enhance its antioxidant properties. (Net photos)

Tabaro also suggests that foods such as meat which contains a high proportion of fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, K and if need be could be fried using vegetable to avoid the overload of animal lipids in the body.

“Fats are bad but at some point our bodies need fats considering that they provide the highest amount of energy in the body on combustion. Individuals should preferably use soya oil, olive oil or sun flower oil which are very high in linoleic and linolenic acids which are essential to the body,” Tabaro points out.

However, Audrey Mutabazi, a food consultant, suggests that meat becomes more palatable when fried compared to other cooking methods although simple stewing in minimum water would yield better results.

“On frying meat, obviously there is an improvement in flavor and colour which improves the sensory acceptability, but meat which is simply stewed has softened fiber with less fat and is more nutritious,” Mutabazi explains.

He adds that when preparing meat, it should be combined with other condiments such as carrots, onions to enhance its antioxidant properties.

“Remember, the condiments also contain their own nutrients, and combining them with meat means supplementing the food hence improving the overall antioxidant properties,” he adds.

Also according to Tabaro, these anti oxidants destroy free radicals within the body, which would otherwise trigger cancer development.

Nonetheless, US-based Mayo Clinic suggests that people on low fiber diet should rely on simmering, poaching, stewing, steaming and braising. Baking or microwaving in a covered dish is another option whereas; cooking methods such as roasting, broiling and grilling should be avoided because they tend to make foods dry and tough.