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Nov 19, 2007 08:05 AM

Roasting Veggies and Nutrition

The other half of my internet life is spent on a board dedicated to beauty and fashion (trust me, it's not AS shallow as you might think... LOL!) and recently the girls there have fallen in love with roasting vegetables. All was going fine and well, until someone mentioned the "Caramelization" that occurs when roasting veggies (Wasn't me!!) and with that comes the dreaded image of "SUGAR!!!"

And so now some of the girls are concerned that roasting veggies might take away some of the nutrition from the veggies. I tried to chime in (Eating Roasted Veggies is better than eating none at all), but they still want to know the specifics!

Can any food scientists help me out with this? I know that cooking veggies alone alters some of the nutrition (Good and bad), but is high heat roasting basically killing it and turning it into a sugar bomb like they fear?


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  1. No, the sugar's already in there (or else it wouldn't caramelize). Unless, of course, they add a really sweet marinade. I'd say the coating - usually seasoned oil - is possibly the most fattening part.

    The high heat can add carcinogens if the veggies burn, though. But I wouldn't worry about that unless there's some serious charring.

    2 Replies
    1. re: piccola

      I believe the carcinogen thing only applies to meat.

      1. re: Miss Needle

        Really? I thought it applied to any burnt food. Go figure.

    2. On a related note, I assume that when you roast and peel a red pepper you lose not just nutrition but also fiber.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Glencora

        That is true, glencora, but not everyone can digest (sweet) pepper fibre.

      2. Roasting veggies is really pretty healthy: they don't lose as many nutrients as they do when you cook them in water (even if you steam, you'll notice the steamer water has substances leached from the veggies). As pointed out, the sugar is already naturally in the veggies. Furthermore, a lot of veggies are actually more nutritious when you cook them: the cooking process breaks down the cellulose in the cell walls and makes the nutrients more bioavailable (easier to absorb and not just pass through your system). You don't have to put a lot of oil on them -- you can just spritz them with a little olive oil, either aerosol or in a spray bottle if you want them to brown nicely.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Not to mention that roasted veggies just taste so much better!

          I am one of those freaks who actually likes Brussel sprouts and I used to nuke them in the micro (in a Pyrex dish, covered with plastic wrap and with a bit of water added), but when a chef told me that he oven roasts them with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic... well a whole new world opened for me! Some of the outer leaves get really crispy-crunchy and the flavor is so much more intensified. If you know someone who doesn't like this vegetable, have them try it roasted. They just might find it tasty.

          1. re: MysticYoYo

            Oh my goodness, yes. There is nothing better than perfectly roasted brussel sprouts.

        2. I might be way off, but something to look into is that even though the sugar is already in the veggies, whether or not cooking them to a caramelization state chemically alters the sugar from a fairly complex carbohydrate sugar occuring naturally in veggies to more of a simple carbohydrate sugar.

          4 Replies
          1. re: forzagto

            I read that caramelization is when a sugar is transformed. But what would be the difference health wise?


            1. re: Dommy

              Well again I have very limited knowledge so there is a good chance i will stand to be corrected but an example i could give is brown rice syrup which is produced by steeping (or cooking) brown rice into a certain consistancy- The original brown rice is a healthy complex carbs whereas the brown rice syrup is a less healthy simplier carb. Although i might also be over simplifying the process to produce brown rice syrup and/or missing a component of the process that is not involved in roasting veggies.
              All this being said I am a very health conscious individual and regulary eat roasted veggies without a second thought of the sugar content.

              1. re: Dommy

                Sugar isn't bad for you unless you have a specific medical condition. In fact, these days even diabetics don't make as much of a differentiation between sugars and other carbohydrates as they used to. The main difference is how quickly carbs in different forms are absorbed, rather than differences in the carbs themselves.

                There's a difference between "sugar" and "too much sugar": too much of anything isn't good for your health.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Also, the sugars in vegetables are not the highly refined white sugar that so many people want to avoid. The vegetables remain a rich source of nutrients unlike white sugar.

                  Dommy, only some of the vitamins are reduced by the high heat of roasting (B complex + C), the fat-soluble (A D E K) plus the minerals are pretty stable.