The best cooking methods, ranked by nutritional value – Eat this, not that

While there is a long list of ways to cook it, it doesn’t mean that they are all good for our health. It is very different where different cooking methods appear on the nutritional spectrum. For example, deep-frying can cause major health problems in the long run, while steaming can help some vegetables retain nutrients. Surprisingly, however, it goes even deeper – for example, one cooking method can help increase the nutritional value of one type of food but actually decrease that of another. Overall, at the end of the day, it is important to ensure that you are making the healthiest choices by eating a balanced diet and choosing the best cooking methods for your meals.

Read ahead to get a glimpse of some of the best and most effective cooking methods, and the nutritional benefits (or drawbacks) that come with them. You can also learn some invaluable cooking tidbits along the way. (If you want to brush up on your cooking skills, check out: The Top 30 Cooking Tips According To The Experts.)

What makes a cooking technique good?

The best cooking techniques are those that not only help prepare delicious dishes, but also preserve a large amount of vitamins and nutrients in the food. “We must all agree that the healthiest cooking methods would help maintain the natural nutritional value of foods while producing a tasty, flavorful product,” says Michele Smallidge, Ed.D. RD, Sports Science Program Director, School of Health Sciences, University of New Haven. Smallidge shares that frying, baking, braising, and sautéing in a small amount of water or oil are healthy options when deciding which cooking method to use. She also explains that roasting, for example, can actually help increase the flavor and nutritional content of some vegetables.

“Unfortunately, not everything is cut and dry because not all vegetables and cooking methods have such beneficial effects,” explains Smallidge. “In fact, some methods can actually reduce heat and light-sensitive nutrients and vitamins, such as vitamin C and some B vitamins, to name but a few With this in mind, Smallidge suggests that you “change” your cooking methods frequently. “In short, change your cooking method regularly, however [make sure to] Keep her healthy while doing this, ”says Smallidge.

What makes a cooking technique bad?

Smallidge explains that some of the worst cooking techniques are those that top up the saturated fat and salt and increase the chances of promoting carcinogens. “For example, frying, grilling and smoking with added fats and salt flavors, and especially if the food is burnt, can be harmful,” says Smallidge and Cancer Risk. “Smallidge points out that it is well-documented that an excess of saturated fat and sodium is well-documented in your diet can increase your risk of heart disease and that burned foods can actually increase your risk of some cancers. “The American Institute of Cancer Research has published cooking and grilling recommendations to reduce the production of these cancer-promoting properties and substances,” she says. Here are the best and worst cooking methods, from worst to best.

Fry the French fries in oil

Deep-frying food can be one of the most unhealthy ways of preparing food. “Any time we fry or eat fried food – especially fried food – it’s never good for your health or your waistline,” said Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD, LDN, nutrition director at the Pritikin Longevity Center. Regular consumption of fried food has been linked to an increased risk of death in postmenopausal women, according to the medical journal The BMJ. The same journal also found that eating fried foods regularly can also increase your risk of serious heart disease and stroke. When deep-frying foods, you should opt for healthier cooking oils such as olive oil or avocado oil.

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Smoked meat

As Smallidge pointed out, smoking foods, especially meat, if consumed regularly can have serious negative effects on your health. According to one study, researchers found a link between colon cancer and frequent consumption of smoked foods. For this reason, it is important to know how much smoked food you are consuming.

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grilled skewers

Grilling makes food taste delicious and can also help retain nutrients and reduce fats. However, it is important not to grill meat or other foods in such a way that they burn or char. According to a study by Harvard Health, grilling can expose food to cancer-causing chemicals found in smoke. Another study by the same institution found that grilling and high temperature cooking can also be linked to high blood pressure.

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Philips hot air fryer in use on the counter
Courtesy of Philips

If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to deep frying, air frying is a great option. “You can make a ‘fried’ product using zero to one spray of healthy oil, such as avocado oil spray, to make foods taste fried without the mess and tons of fat calories,” says Gomer. Gomer points out that Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, sweet potato fries, chicken, and salmon taste good when prepared this way. “My personal favorite [airfryer] is the Ninja Foodi, a combination grill and air fryer, ”she adds.

RELATED: 27 Air Fryer Recipes That Make Healthier Fried Foods


It may come as a surprise that microwaves are good at preserving vitamin C levels in a food, as well as other nutrients that are often reduced when heated. The researchers conducted a study that found that microwaves and steam were the best ways to preserve the flavonoids found in broccoli. Harvard Health Publishing explains that the microwave can do this in part because of the shorter cooking times.

sauteed vegetables

Sautéing is a tasty way to prepare foods like vegetables and meat while also opting for a healthier alternative. However, it is important to consider what ingredients you are using when frying. For example, a study conducted in Spain found that frying broccoli with olive oil or sunflower oil helped to better maintain the vitamin C content of the vegetables.

Chicken fried rotisserie

Smallidge explains that frying food is an example of a cooking method that can help enhance the flavor of food while improving its nutritional value. “Roasting vegetables with a dash of oil and a pinch of salt can really enhance the flavor and improve the availability of nutrients like beta-carotene, lycopene (a carotenoid that can reduce the risk of heart disease) and calcium. In this example, the cooking process brings out the benefits. ”It is important, however, that this be food dependent – while frying can increase some nutritional benefits of one type of food, it can decrease the benefits of another.

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Sous Vide uses an airtight vacuum seal and slow cooking time to create delicious culinary creations. Not only does this method lock in moisture, resulting in a juicy dish, but it also has its own health benefits. For starters, the non-invasive cooking temperatures and vacuum-sealed details both help preserve water-soluble vitamins like vitamins C and B, according to Sous Vide Magazine.

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Pressure cooking

Gomer shares that using an Instant Pot to pressure cook can be one of the easiest, healthiest ways to prepare food. “The Instant Pot wins the award for making healthy soups and chilli,” she says. “You literally throw the ingredients in, push a button and that’s it. Simple cleaning and a vegetable soup are liquid gold for a healthy diet. ”And apparently Gomer is not the only fan of this clever invention. According to the Cleveland Clinic, pressure cooking can help maintain the nutrients in the food during the cooking process. For example, in another study published in the Journal of Food Science, researchers found that broccoli retained 90% of its vitamin C content when cooked in a pressure cooker.

RELATED: 20 Best Instant Pot Hacks Every Chef Should Know About

steaming vegetables

In addition to being a simple and easy way to prepare food, steaming offers many health benefits. According to a Cornell University study, steaming vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, and cabbage can help provide more antioxidants than when these vegetables are eaten raw. Also, water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and most of the B vitamins, can be retained to a greater extent when steaming, as opposed to cooking, due to the limited contact of the food with water.

Read about the healthiest foods you can eat:

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30 healthiest foods for preparing meals

The 100 healthiest foods in the world

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