It’s not just low calorie, but also nutritious. Steam cooking is the way to go, say experts

‘What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger’ is a saying that holds good for food as well. So, unfortunate as it is, what doesn’t taste good only makes you healthy. Steamed vegetables can often leave you smelling like boiled stew; they never taste like those chocolates you finish by the box in just one sitting.

Experts will tell you that steaming is the safest and simplest way to down your greens. Seema Singh, head of dietetics, Fortis Hospitals, says, “Many essential nutrients get destroyed by heat when cooking. These nutrients are especially vulnerable at boiling temperature. Steaming or microwaving rather than boiling are methods that do not involve immersing the vegetables in water; so the maximum amount of nutrients can be retained, along with their fresh taste and crispness.”

Choose the rainbow

Aishwarya J., a nutritionist from Gold’s Gym, Adyar, says, “It is impossible to get fit without veggies. Go colourful: ensure your diet contains the colours of the rainbow — yellow, red and orange vegetables (such as capsicum and carrot) contain keratinoids which are a good source of protein; green (such as lady’sfinger and spinach) is for minerals such as magnesium and potassium, essential for vital processes of the body; purple (such as brinjal) boosts metabolism; and crucifers (such as lettuce or cabbage) have high nutrient value. When trying to get fit or lose weight, we recommend the consumption of a lot of greens as they are energy giving.”

The added bonus derived from eating vegetables is they are low on calories and high on fibre, and so help people reduce weight. “Their bland taste can be perked up by adding simple ingredients such as herbs, salt, black pepper, lemon juice or coriander leaves,” says Seema Singh, head of dietetics, Fortis Hospitals.

One serving of vegetables a day can keep the doctor away. And as Seema says, “Two or three portions a day could provide greater protection against stroke and some cancers.” Other health benefits are delayed development of cataract, reduced symptoms of asthma, improved bowel function and bone health. For diabetics who need to limit their intake of fruit, consuming steamed vegetables is an ideal way of getting essential nutrients.

“Rice and rotis are commonly consumed by people in our country. Add fenugreek or spinach leaves to your roti flour, or add more vegetables or greens to your pilaf. Besides improving the flavour, the meal becomes healthier. You can’t complain about lack of variety either because the food acquires a new flavour,” says Aishwarya.

Dharini Krishnan, a city dietician, says, “Carrots, peas and cauliflower just need to be lightly steamed. They taste great with a dash of salt and pepper, and with a spoon of butter, even more delicious. Steaming is the easiest way of cooking. No oil is used in the cooking process. Our Indian spices such as coriander, cumin and chilli do have health benefits and can enhance flavour.”

Stick to a traditional meal; ask your mother or grandmother for recipes. “Poriyal and kootu are excellent ways of disguising the taste of many vegetables, but try to go easy on the oil and coconut,” advises Dharini.

Mix vegetables in everything. Discover and experiment with flavours. Add vegetables to pasta, sauces, dumplings, momos, noodles or rice. Switching to a different diet involves creativity in the kitchen. With a stainless steel pot, a cutting board, a steamer basket and a good knife, you’re all set.