Why is cooking with steam healthy?

Over the decades there have been hundreds of dieting and healthy eating fads. Some require stringent adherence to guidelines of what to avoid eating, or in some cases, how to specifically cook (or not cook) accepted foods. But healthy eating for the majority of people can be simplified. Eat more produce, consider cooking at home, and make healthy food flavorful. So why aren’t we doing that? Even though studies show eating a variety of produce is a key preventative strategy for avoiding cardiovascular disease and cancer, most people find healthy eating overwhelming, (due to the systematic challenges and the sheer breadth of daily hurdles these are simply impossible to cover here). Most of the US population does not eat the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetable servings each day. But here’s one simple thing you can do when you’re cooking: cook with steam using the Anova’s Precision® Oven to enhance the nutritional content of your food.

Steam Cooking And Produce

You’ve always been told to eat colorful meals. That’s because there’s solid evidence that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can help prevent a multitude of chronic diseases. But it’s not simply apples or kale that’s keeping you healthy: it’s the phytochemical inside. For your body to access these beneficial compounds, studies have found that cooking with steam may actually boost the nutrition value. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that women who ate a standard nutrition diet vs a raw food diet actually absorbed more beta-carotene even though those on the raw food diet ate more foods containing beta-carotene in general. Another study found that most cooking methods (boiling, baking etc) can break down some tissues of produce items and destroy their antioxidants. While each produce variety is different, on average the study found that boiling knocked down the polyphenol levels within vegetables by nearly 40%. The good news? Steaming, increased the polyphenol average content by over 50%. This gentle heat via steaming can help your body digest and absorb better than some raw versions. When steaming, your veggies should still be tender, but have texture (they shouldn’t fall apart- except produce like tomatoes). The good news is using your Anova Precision® Oven makes it so it’s nearly impossible to overcook your veggies by pairing sous vide mode temps with steam and a perforated pan so your veggies don’t drown. It’s also worth noting that some veggies are more bioavailable when paired with a fat, so a drizzle of olive oil is a great starting point for a dressing later.

5 Vegetables to Cook with Steam

  1. Tomatoes: Cooked tomatoes had significantly higher levels of lycopene vs raw tomatoes.
  2. Asparagus: Cooking asparagus boosts antioxidant activity by 16-25% while also increasing phenolic acid (associated with reduced risk of cancer). Use this Asparagus 101 guide and add your own seasoning spin.
  3. Celery: Cooking celery boosts antioxidant capacity. Try this Thanksgiving Sheet Pan recipe using the Anova Precision® Oven.
  4. Carrots: Cooking carrots boosts beta-carotene levels (important for your immune system). In fact, when carrots are cooked with less water (like in steaming) it significantly increases the bioavailability of beta-carotene. Make these glazed carrots to get started!
  5. Green Beans: Besides boosting antioxidant levels when cooked, steaming green beans may actually be especially helpful in reducing cholesterol. Make these simple green beans tonight.

Steam Cooking with Meat and Poultry

Beyond the importance of cooking meat and poultry to reduce food-borne illness, cooking these foods helps denature the proteins and make them more digestible. But how often have you had a terribly dry chicken breast or overcooked, tough steak and had to coat it with a sauce to make it taste better? Since control over temperature and moisture through steam improves tenderness (a marker that highly impacts consumer acceptability with meats), steam cooking also opens the door to higher acceptability of ‘healthier’ lower saturated fat cuts of meats. In fact, Harvard Medical School recommends steaming as a cooking method for a healthy diet. In general, cooking meat at extremely high temperatures can be problematic (leading to the formation of compounds that may increase disease risk), but so can cooking for lengthy periods using methods that cause nutrient loss. Cooking with steam can both help minimize nutrient loss, and limit the amount of those harmful compounds possible (ending with a quick roast or sear only). Studies show that moist heat at low temperatures like you would use in Sous Vide Mode with steam in the Anova Precision® Oven reduces the formation of compounds known as HCA’s and PAH’s. These are the harmful compounds we know that contribute to disease. They’re most often formed in problematic quantities when compounds in meat are exposed to the high temperatures as in grilling. As in traditional sous vide cooking which allows for precision, the ability to create a tender, even piece of meat creates a more delicious and nutritious end product (better nutrient retention). A longer cooking time at a lower temperature also reduces damage to heat sensitive beneficial compounds while reducing cooking loss but increasing collagen solubility.

Steaming For Healthy Eating

Studies show that steam cooking is a method that increases bioavailability of chronic disease-preventing nutrients in produce and also reducing the formation of harmful compounds in meat while providing a tender, juicy end result. Until now, steaming has been a bit of an unpredictable method with little control. Anova’s Precision® Oven allows for exact temperature and steam percentage control to create a perfectly cooked recipe that not only retains nutrients and makes the more accessible to your body, but also a delicious meal. The bottom line with healthy cooking is people will eat what tastes good. Steam, with control, makes it much easier. To get inspired and get started with steam, visit Anova’s recipe library! Thank you, Carlene Thomas, RDN Dietitian Nutritionist, Food & Beverage Photography/Videography @OhCarlene

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