DEAR DR. BLONZ: I enjoy the speed and convenience of cooking vegetables in the microwave, but became quite concerned when I read that this method might be destroying nutrients. Should I steam my vegetables instead of microwaving them? -- Q.T., Austin, Texas
DEAR Q.T.: It is reasonable to want the most from what we eat. Eating should be one of life’s great pleasures, and it makes no sense to sacrifice that enjoyment on the altar of requiring every last milligram of every nutrient.
Cooking can reduce the levels of certain nutrients, but it makes others more available for absorption. The answer to your question comes down to a matter of preference, and of using the technique with which you feel most comfortable.
The difference in nutrient composition after cooking is based primarily on the temperature and time of exposure. Microwaving is among the least destructive methods. Another issue is whether the food is submerged and cooked in water that then gets discarded; in this case, the cooking water can contain some of the water-soluble nutrients.
Steaming and microwaving are similar in both respects, so run with whichever you prefer. The most important factor is that you are eating and enjoying the bounty of fresh summer vegetables. Kudos on good eating habits, and their contribution to your health.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: Salt is a straightforward compound, so why does table salt need to contain additives? I know that they make salt iodized by adding a compound that contains iodine, but why are they adding other compounds such as calcium silicate and silicon dioxide? I have absolutely no problem with blood pressure, and use salt on occasion. Would I be better off using a natural salt or a sea salt where these compounds are not used? -- T.S., Sun City, Arizona
DEAR T.S.: Crystals of table salt are composed of sodium chloride, which can stick together when exposed to moisture in the room’s air. Salt that clumps together can have a hard time making it out of the shaker. One method to avoid this is to add dried rice or crackers to the shaker to absorb any moisture and keep things flowing. Another approach is to add very small amounts of compounds such as calcium silicate or silicon dioxide. (Silicon dioxide is the same compound in sand and quartz crystals.) These anti-caking substances are harmless at the levels used.
It is totally up to you: You can opt for a free-flowing product or one that needs more of a shake to be dispensed.
Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.