Your Vegetables Don't Like It When You Boil Them
I grew up in an Irish-American household. Dinner always included a vegetable, and whether it was fresh, frozen or canned, my mother boiled the hell out of them for twenty minutes before serving. It was like exorcising the demons out of the vegetables, but in the case of vegetables, it wasn't demons: it was nutrients. I don't blame my mom. She didn't know any better. She came from a long tradition destroying vegetables. Potato famine, anyone?
Cooking vegetables, as opposed to eating them raw, may be beneficial because it can enhance the certain antioxidants. Antioxidants are types of vitamins that inhibit oxidation. Oxidation can cause a chain reaction that damages cells. There have been studies that antioxidants may be beneficial in preventing disease, although these studies are inconclusive.
While it may be uncertain whether antioxidants have health benefits, boiling vegetables is not the best cooking method you can use. Water depletes the amount of nutrients in vegetables, specifically certain vitamins that are water soluble. Additionally, prolonged exposure to heat depletes a lot of nutrients. If you boil vegetables, you are better off using less water and less cooking time. The time will vary for different types of vegetables, but in general, five minutes should be plenty of time.
Instead of boiling vegetables, your best bet in obtaining the heath benefits of vegetables is using a different cooking method. I prefer to steam my vegetables. For instance, I often have broccoli or green beans. It takes only about five minutes to heat the water to boiling, and another five minutes to steam the veggies. Sure, steaming uses water, but since the vegetables are not directly exposed to the water, the nutrients are not lost. Other preferred methods of cooking are roasting, stir-frying or microwaving.
Vegetables are an essential part of healthy eating. They are a great source of vitamins, are low in calories and even provide you with a bit of protein. Treat your veggies right, and they'll return the favor.