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Do Vegetables Lose Nutrients When Cooked in Soup?

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Vegetables are rich in minerals and vitamins and are highly recommended fixtures in a healthy diet. However, the method of preparation can have an impact on the nutrients you can realistically get from a serving of vegetables.

Vegetables lose nutrients when cooked in soup. As they boil, some of the nutrients they contain will seep into the water. Heat degrades many of the nutrients in the vegetables, while the heat-resistant nutrients remain.

To retain the most nutrients as possible from your vegetables, cook the soup just long enough so that the vegetables are a bit softened but still somewhat firm. Generally, the mushier the vegetable, the less nutritious they are.

The rest of the article will cover all you need to know about cooking your vegetables in soup. I’ll also look at the healthiest ways to cook your vegetables to keep nutrient loss to the barest minimum.

How Cooking Vegetables in Soup Affects the Nutrients

According to the ​International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science​, how you cook your vegetables determines the nutrients you’ll get from them, and when you boil them, you lose some nutrients.

If you cook your vegetables in soup, some of the water-soluble nutrients like Vitamins B and C are lost. For example, boiling spinach, lettuce, or broccoli in soup reduces the Vitamin C content in them by up to 50%.

However, cooking your vegetables in soup isn’t all negative, because if you’re targeting certain nutrients while completing your daily serving of water-soluble nutrients from other sources, you’ll get the benefits of other nutrients that are only activated when boiled.

Boiling your vegetables in soup enhances the absorption of certain nutrients your body ordinarily finds difficult to absorb from raw vegetables. 

These nutrients include the following:

  • Lutein is an important nutrient for eye health.
  • Beta carotene is important for skin health.
  • Calcium is important for bone health.
  • Lycopene is vital for cardiovascular health.

Is Soup a Good Way To Eat Vegetables?

Bean-Soup-Cooking-in-a-Pot

Soup is a good way to eat vegetables. They are appetizing and make vegetables more appetizing. You can also combine multiple vegetables in one meal. Making vegetable soups is easier than cooking elaborate vegetable-based meals. 

In many cases, the hardest part of the cooking process is cleaning and washing your vegetables. But eating vegetables in soup is a quick way to increase your intake of fiber, minerals, and vitamins.

Many people go for vegetable soups because there’s no limit to the spicing options. 

You can make soup sweet, sour, spicy, or a mix to ensure greater appeal to your taste buds. Cooking the veggies into a broth gives you tasty, nutrient-filled water to go along with the vegetable lumps.

Does Homemade Vegetable Soup Have Nutrients?

Homemade vegetable soup has nutrients. The number and type of vegetables in the soup determine the quantity and quality of nutrients available to you per serving. A bowl of vegetable soup made of broccoli, chili peppers, and tomatoes is rich in nutrients. 

However, another bowl of soup that contains cucumbers, lentils, broccoli, mushrooms, and fresh spring peas is richer.

Is Homemade Vegetable Soup Good for You?

Homemade vegetable soup is good for you. All vegetable-based soups are low in calories but high in key nutrients. If you’re looking to avoid low-nutrient and high-calorie meals, vegetable soups provide a quick and filling alternative.

When you eat a low-calorie vegetable-based soup before eating your main meal, you’re likely to reduce your calorie consumption in that meal by 20% or more. 

The soup fills you up, ensuring that you need to eat less.

Making homemade vegetable soups a regular fixture in your meal plans ensures you’re getting your daily recommended intake of water-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin B, C, and K. It also provides you with a steady supply of dietary fiber and a wide range of minerals.

Furthermore, eating homemade vegetable soup can help your weight loss goals. Apart from the fact that it helps you eat fewer calories per day, vegetables like celery, onions, and leeks rich in potassium help the body get rid of excess fluid. 

With a reduction in the excess fluids in the body, you’ll feel leaner and lighter.

How Do You Boil Vegetables Without Losing Nutrients?

Putting-Cut-Collards-in-Pot-to-Cook

The best way to boil vegetables without losing nutrients is to reduce the cooking water. It’s also important to avoid boiling your vegetables for more than 90 seconds. The colors you see in the water as you boil your vegetables signify the loss of water-soluble nutrients. 

The nutrients will leach into the water faster if the nutrients are submerged. Therefore, reducing the cooking water while boiling the vegetables is the best way to retain a higher portion of the nutrients.

However, if you’re boiling the vegetables to consume as soup, you can use as much water as you can consume, as you’ll still enjoy the nutrients released into the water.

When boiling your vegetables in soup, you still need to avoid boiling them for too long. Add spices, cook your meat, fish, or other proteins, and put your vegetables last. The time between adding your vegetables and turning off the fire should be no more than 90 seconds.

You should also consider adding ingredients that will help squeeze out as many digestible nutrients as possible from your vegetables. 

For example, making vegetable soup with broccoli, kale, and spinach will give you soup with a lot of iron bound to pass through your body undigested. However, adding some citrus fruit or carrot to the mix makes the iron in your soup easier to absorb due to the chemical interaction between vitamin C and iron.

So, you can get as many nutrients as possible from your boiled vegetables by doing the following:

  • Mix vegetables that complement each other.
  • Save leafy vegetables for last when adding ingredients to your soup pot.
  • Only add as much water as you intend to consume.

What Is the Healthiest Way To Cook Vegetables?

Cooked Vegetables on a Plate

The healthiest way to cook vegetables is steaming. Steamed lettuce, spinach, or broccoli will only lose 9-15% of the vitamin C content compared to the 50% loss during boiling. Steaming preserves more nutrients because you don’t fully submerge the vegetables in water. 

With very little water, you can greatly reduce the chances of nutrients seeping away. There are other ways of cooking vegetables that preserve nutrients more than boiling. Let’s now take a look at these methods.

Grilling or Roasting

Grilling or roasting your vegetables is an excellent way to prepare your vegetables because the approach utilizes dry heat to cook your food. You also don’t need to add extra calories from oil or butter. 

You’ll still lose some of the nutrients in the vegetables to the dry heat, but you won’t lose too much of the water-soluble nutrients as you’d expect with boiling.

Stir-Frying and Sautéing

Stir-frying and sautéing are similar cooking methods because you must cook the food on medium to high heat. However, with stir-frying, you only need to stir the vegetables at high heat for a short period. 

Again, both methods don’t require water, so you’ll preserve most water-soluble vitamins and minerals during the cooking process.

Cooking your vegetables in this manner may also increase your chances of getting specific types of nutrients. For instance, you’ll get 6.5 times more of the antioxidant beta carotene from stir-fried carrots compared to eating raw carrots. Also, the oil added during stir-frying can improve the body’s ability to absorb these nutrients.

Microwaving

Many people microwave vegetables because it’s convenient. You only need to wash and put the veggies in the box for a few minutes. Microwaving also doesn’t destroy the nutrients in the vegetables. 

When using the microwave, you’ll cook the vegetables for a shorter amount of time, with less heat. Therefore, this approach preserves more nutrients overall than boiling and other similar high-heat cooking methods.

However, the method you adopt when cooking the vegetables in the microwave matters greatly. 

If you submerge your veggies in water, microwaving may still lead to nutrients seeping into the water. However, inserting the vegetables in steam bags will preserve more nutrients.

Microwaving your vegetables is a safe cooking method because the machine doesn’t change the chemical structure for any type of food. Your microwaved foods also won’t retain any radiation after cooking. 

So, your vegetables won’t become radioactive because you put them in the microwave. Remember, the microwave only produces non-ionizing radiation.

3 Healthiest Vegetable Soups 

The 3 healthiest vegetable soups you can make at home include the following:

  • Bean curry soup
  • Fresh tomato soup
  • Barley soup

I’ll look at each one below, covering the ingredients you need and cooking directions.

Bean Curry Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) of canned garbanzo beans
  • ½ cup (125 mL) of chopped Swiss chard 
  • Chopped onion
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • ½ tsp (2.5 mL) of turmeric
  • ½ tsp (2.5 mL) of coriander
  • ½ tsp (2.5 mL) of black pepper
  • 2 tsp (9.9 mL) of olive oil
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil briefly and throw in chopped garlic.
  2. Add the onions after 10 seconds.
  3. Add your tomatoes, mashing them with a spatula.
  4. Add all of the seasonings.
  5. Cook the mix for one minute.
  6. Add the canned beans.
  7. Add ¼ cup (62.5 mL) of water and cover the mix.
  8. Allow it to cook for 5-7 minutes.
  9. Add the Swiss chard, stir the mix and cover it again.
  10. Cook for another five minutes, and the bean soup is ready.

Chickpeas, Swiss chard, and garbanzo beans are rich in plant and protein fiber and vitamins and minerals. The low-calorie soup is effective for weight loss.

Fresh Tomato Soup

Ingredients you need:

  • 4 seeded and diced large ripe tomatoes
  • 3-5 cups (750-1,250 mL) of water (matching the size of the tomatoes)
  • Peeled, seeded, and diced cucumber
  • 2 cloves of peeled and diced garlic
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp (29.6 mL) of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp (14.8 mL) of vinegar
  • ½ tsp (2.5 mL) of fresh black pepper
  • ¼ tsp (1.23 mL) of cumin powder
  • Some basil

Preparation:

  1. Briefly heat the oil inside a pan.
  2. Add the tomatoes, green pepper, cucumber, and onion.
  3. Cook for two minutes over medium heat while stirring.
  4. Transfer the mix to a blender, add some water, and blend to get a smooth consistency.
  5. Transfer the blended vegetable to the pan.
  6. Add seasoning.
  7. Wait for the mix to boil.
  8. Garnish the mix with fresh basil and serve.

Fresh tomato soup is highly nutritious because tomatoes are low-calorie and low-fat, as the lycopene found in tomatoes helps prevent metabolic disorders

According to scientists, green pepper is rich in capsaicin, while cucumber has lipid-lowering properties.

Pot-of-Tomato-Soup-With-a-Whisk-in-it

Barley Soup

Ingredients You Need:

  • ½ cup (125 mL) of whole barley
  • 2 cloves of chopped garlic
  • Chopped onion
  • ½ cup (125 mL) of chopped carrot
  • ¼ cup (62.5 mL) of chopped celery
  • 1 cup (250 mL) vegetable broth
  • ¼ cup (62.5 mL) diced mushrooms
  • ½ tsp (2.5 mL) of dry pepper
  • 2 tbsp (29.6 mL) of olive oil
  • Salt
  • Cilantro

Preparation:

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add onion and garlic.
  2. Cook for two minutes.
  3. Add vegetables and barley.
  4. Add the pepper, salt, broth, and mushroom.
  5. Cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes on medium heat.
  6. Serve with cilantro as garnish.

Barley is rich in the soluble fiber 𝛃- glucan, which effectively reduces visceral fat and the body mass index (BMI), and ranked low in the glycemic index. Carrots contain beta carotene, and the fiber makes the soup bulky, leaving you fuller for longer periods.

The Best Way To Increase the Nutrients in Cooked Vegetables

The best way to increase the vegetable nutrients in your soup is to increase the portion of vegetables you’d ordinarily need to cook to compensate for any lost nutrients.

Even when cooking the vegetables as soup to consume the water, you won’t get 100% of the nutrients available in the mix, as you’ll lose some of it to heat. Therefore, increasing the number of vegetables reduces the overall impact of cooking. 

Let’s assume that a cup of chopped carrots has the 90g of Vitamin C you need per day. Cooking the cup can reduce the Vitamin C by up to 50%. Cooking one and a half cups will leave you with 68 g (2.39 oz) of Vitamin C, closer to the recommended daily serving of 90 g (3.17 oz).

Final Thoughts

Vegetables lose some of their nutrients when cooked in soup, but the gravity of the loss comes down to cooking methods and the type of vegetables, but it’s impossible to get the full spread of vitamins and minerals. Some nutrients leach into the water, while you’ll lose some to the heat.

However, even with some lost nutrients, vegetable soups remain super healthy and should remain a permanent fixture in your diet.

For more, don’t miss What’s the Best Way To Prepare Food in a Survival Situation?

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