The frying pan, it turns out, isn’t fungi’s friend. According to researchers from the Mushroom Technological Research Center of La Rioja in Spain (yes, the Spanish have a mushroom research center), the best way to cook mushrooms while still preserving their nutritional properties is to heat them in the microwave or grill them.
I shiit-ake you not.
Mushrooms are healthy critters: They contain a significant amount of dietary fiber; protein; amino acids; vitamins (including B1, B2, B12, C, D and E); and trace minerals. They’re also low in fat and calories. But the researchers found that all of this can be put in jeopardy by using the stovetop.
“Frying and boiling treatments produced more severe losses in proteins and antioxidant compounds,” wrote Irene Roncero, one of the study’s authors, in a statement. “This is probably due to the leaching of soluble substances in the water or in the oil, which may significantly influence the nutritional value of the final product.”
Translation: Water and oil makes all the good stuff leak out.
This doesn’t happen when you microwave or grill them. “When mushrooms were cooked by microwave or grill, there were no significant losses in nutritional value,” Roncero explains.
Which raises the question: What other foods are we screwing up with the frying pan? The answer: Most of them. “Applying heat to certain foods, like eggs or vegetables, is a naturally destructive process,” says Anthony Gustin, a nutritionist. “The chemistry of heating these types of foods looks a lot like unwinding molecules, for better or for worse.”
Essentially, almost nothing we cook in a pan is best served, nutritionally speaking, by being cooked in a pan. Eggs, for example, are far better for you soft boiled than scrambled. “Scrambling eggs is essentially mixing up the fats and proteins and directly exposing them to heat and oxygenation over and over,” says Gustin. “Because scrambling eggs involves more opportunity to oxidize the fats and cholesterol (creating more unhealthy free radicals), it makes them potentially detrimental to your health instead of beneficial.”
Even the much-heralded tag team of spinach and kale isn’t so good from a pan—bad news for any would-be health freaks who’ve found that frying the stuff is the only way to make it edible. “All methods of cooking destroy some nutritional value; that’s why the best way to maximize nutrient intake is to eat fresh spinach raw,” says Gustin. “When that’s not suitable, preserve most of the nutritional value by minimizing the water used to cook spinach, as well as the cooking time. The best way to retain all of the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals when cooking fresh spinach is to steam it on the stove top.”
In short, don’t cook any vegetables or eggs in a frying pan (on the flip side, cook your meat in the pan and not on the grill, as grill char on meat gives you cancer). Instead, you can spend all the time you’ll save by microwaving your food learning how to pretend to enjoy eating only raw veggies.