Holistic Natural Health Experts

Is steaming food healthy? All you need to know

Steaming food is a popular cooking method that involves cooking food using steam. It is a gentle and efficient way to cook, as it helps retain the natural flavors, colors, and nutrients of the food.

To steam food, you typically need a steamer or a pot with a steaming basket.

But before we talk about the benefits of steaming, let’s talk about the cooking itself.

Cooking food

Cooking plant foods “breaks down” the fibers, making them easier to digest. For example, you can remove more sugar from a cooked carrot, since the broken-down fibers release the sugar more easily.

On the other hand, you can eat vegetables that would be unpalatable without cooking, such as potatoes or eggplants.

So, while cooking has advantages, it also has certain nutritional disadvantages, such as the risk of damaging the food or destroying some of its components, like vitamin C.

Cooking also starves the good intestinal bacteria that need raw fiber to thrive.

For these and other reasons, we recommend eating no more than 50% cooked foods.

What Types of Food Can You Steam?

In principle, all foods can be steamed unless you’re looking for the effects of other types of cooking such as:

  • Baking
  • Frying
  • Wok cooking
  • Grilling

However, there’s little point in steaming delicate foods that would disintegrate very quickly.

For example, steaming blueberries or cherries makes no sense. 

Once again, the questions are twofold: 

Is the food I want to cook healthy? If not, steamed or otherwise, it won’t be any healthier.

For example, if you want to steam cook fish, it would not change the fact that fish contains no fiber, a lot of contaminants like heavy metals, and brings you a lot of unwanted acids. 

Can the food I want to steam be eaten raw? If so, it may be better to eat it raw.

For example, if you steam-cook carrots, endives, or beetroots, these are totally fine to eat raw in a salad and will be much better for preserving nutritional values.

Do I like the taste and texture that steaming will give my food? If so, that’s fine.

For example, if you steam-cook sweet potatoes, the taste will be drastically different than if you cook them in the oven. Many people don’t like the taste of steamed cooked sweet potatoes.

Have I taken into account the nutritional damage the food will undergo? If not, it’s not so good.

For example, if you steam-cook apples, you will damage their nutritional value greatly as like many fruits, apples are very delicate to any type of cooking.

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Is steamed food better than boiled food?

Steam cooking uses the heat of steam to cook the food. The food is not soaked in water, where some of its contents will inevitably be extracted by the cooking water. 

We’re not talking here about soups, where the cooking water is intended for consumption.

The temperature remains around 100 degrees for both types of cooking, so we can sum up by saying that the advantage of steaming lies in the superior preservation of the food’s nutrients.

Of course, we’re only talking about natural steam cooking here, and not pressure cookers, which we don’t recommend.

Why steaming food?

The advantage of steaming is that food does not cook above 100 degrees, and nutrients are not lost in the water. The time the food is steamed can be longer or shorter, allowing it to be cooked to perfection without remaining more than necessary in the hot water, as is the case with boiling.

Concretely we can say that the benefit of steaming food relies on the fact that you are using the least damaging cooking method. 

Moreover, steaming allows you to use different types of containers, such as the well-known bamboo baskets used in Chinese cooking for ravioli and other foods.

The type of container will change the taste of the steamed food, allowing you to choose the most qualitative version of steaming.

We personally recommend bamboo baskets as the first choice and glass baskets as the second. The taste of cooked food is more authentic and refined.

Are there any disadvantages of steaming food?

The disadvantages are simply those of cooking. Even with the healthiest cooking possible, which is the case with steaming, cooking deteriorates fats and, above all, creates glycation.

Glycation (the Maillard reaction) is a process promoted by cooking, where sugar molecules bind mainly to proteins, creating AGEs (advanced glycation end-products). Foods such as meats generate the highest levels of AGEs.

AGEs are known to be a problem for our bodies, as they promote tissue aging.

However, steaming is the cooking method that generates the fewest AGEs, since the higher the temperature, the more AGEs are produced.

On the other hand, fats, such as fried oils, dramatically increase AGEs.

Our expert advice

Before looking at the different cooking methods, you should first aim at adopting a healthy diet. 

To do that, we recommend that you subscribe now and read our complete ebook on the topic “Healthy Food: Your Fundamental Right”.

As we mentioned above, steaming unhealthy food does not make it healthy. 

Cooking always spoils healthy food that can be eaten raw. So choose recipes that allow you to eat it raw if possible.

If you want to cook healthy food, choose steam cooking, which is the least problematic and the healthiest. 

Occasionally, for reasons of taste and recipe, you can use other cooking methods such as the oven, infrared or wok.

Don’t exceed 50% of cooked foods in your diet in general, as this allows you to retain most of the benefits of vitamins, antioxidants and other phytonutrients not destroyed by cooking.

And don’t forget that raw fibers are essential for the development of good intestinal bacteria and overall health.

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