Do slow cookers take the nutrients out of vegetables if slow cooked all day? Would I be better steaming or eating them raw?

There are several things that can affect the amount of nutrients in fruits and vegetables. Exposure to air, immersion in water, time elapsed since food harvest, exposure to light, and exposure to heat and high heat. Slow cooking will generally allow food to be slow heated over an extended time period. The temperature stays around 200F. There will be some loss of nutrients from slow cooking vegetables. However, since the “pot” that the food is prepared in is generally covered, much of the steam is re-absorbed and the nutrients will settle back into the stewing or cooking liquid. Make sure you are incorporating the cooking liquid when you plate up your meal.

It has long been thought that “fresh is best”. However, much research has been completed and it has been found that a small amount of cooking and a little bit of processing may actually be helpful in retaining nutrients from food. For example, boiling carrots can increase healthy carotenoid levels. Lycopene is found in higher amounts from processed tomatoes. Fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K are less likely to leach in water when food is cooked. Many organizations feel that steaming vegetables may be best. There is minimal cooking time and generally, minimal nutrients lost in the water.

Overall, remember that there is no method of cooking considered “best” for all foods. Each method may have a certain set of nutrients that are more affected than another. Keep in mind that eating fruits and vegetables in any way, shape, or form is extremely important to overall health. If slow cooking vegetables will help you reach your 5+ serving a day goal, then I would continue to do this. You might also think about trying a new vegetable a week; experiment with all types of fruits and vegetables—whether raw, steamed or slow cooked.

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