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If healthy eating is your modus operandi, then you definitely want to find out more about steaming your food. One problem with cooking is that heat can break down and even destroy up to 20 percent of certain vitamins in vegetables. For example, vitamin C, folate, and potassium do not fare well against high temperatures. That doesn't mean you have to become a raw food aficionado, by any means. In fact, we don't recommend an all-raw or majority-raw diet because some veggies are better for you aft…

r exposed to heat in the cooking process. High temps can help release antioxidants in spinach, carrots, and tomatoes. So what cooking method should you use to get the most possible vitamins and nutrients from your food? Steaming is one of the healthiest cooking techniques.

Steaming is when food cooks in an enclosed space with searing hot, vaporized water. And since steam is a form of moisture, your vegetables, meat, shellfish, and fish fillets remain moist throughout the cooking process. So there's no need to add any oils or other fats for the purpose of increasing moisture. But you can sprinkle as much or as little seasoning as you want on your chicken breast, steamed broccoli, green beans, and steam fished.

Steaming Methods

There are no fewer than half a dozen super easy tools you can use steam food at home. And none of them will cost you a fortune.

Bamboo Steamer

There are two types of bamboo steamers: one that originated in China and another that's from Japan. These cooking vessels are very inexpensive while also attractive. You can buy a single bamboo steamer, or buy stacked steamers to cook more than one serving of food at a time. One thing these natural, round steamers do very well is make steamed buns (aka, char siu bao). If you've ever eaten dim sum at your local Chinese restaurant, then you've probably sampled delicious steamed buns. You wouldn't believe how easy it is to make this dough-filled small side dish at home. You can use homemade dough, or purchase pre-made dough in the refrigerated section at your supermarket or specialty grocery store. To prepare a meat filling, place cooked ground beef or diced roast beef in a small pan over a low flame with sweet and sour ingredients, including soy sauce, hoisin, ginger, vinegar, and sugar. Stir regularly until the sauce reduces less than halfway. As the spiced beef cools, lay out several circles of dough for your buns. Hold the dough circles in your hand as you add about a tablespoon of filling, then seal the dough by pinching the edges together. It takes about 15 minutes to cook steamed buns using a bamboo steamer.

Basket Steamer

A steamer basket or vegetable steamer is merely a vegetable holder that fits inside of a pot with boiling water. You can buy a collapsible basket that fits in various sized pots. Check out how easy it is to make steamed vegetables using one of these things. First, cut your vegetables. For steamed asparagus, trim off the thicker, dryer bottom portion of the stalk. And if the asparagus is very thick, use a vegetable peeler to remove some of the outer skin. For green beans, cut off the ends. You can even cut your vegetables into bite-sized pieces if you want. Then place the veggies in the steamer pot after the water reaches a full, robust boil. For steamed green beans and asparagus, be sure to remove after about 5 to 7 minutes. For more delicate vegetables, like spinach and arugula, remove after about 3 minutes. And for heartier foods, like potatoes and squash, you can leave them to steam for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how large and dense the pieces are.

Pot Steamer

You can buy a pot steamer on its own or when you're buying a new set of pots, choose a set that has a pot steamer. Pot steamers can be used for cooking vegetables, but they're also the perfect size and durable enough for larger steamed recipes, like chicken, fish fillets, and mussels.

To make Thai-style steamed mussels, combine a can of coconut milk with a tablespoon of yellow Thai curry paste. Once it simmers, add mussels and cover tightly. When the mussels open, remove them from the water -- at about 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer cooked mussels to a bowl and spoon the coconut-milk broth over the top.

To make steamed fish, bring water and vegetable or chicken stock to a boil. Add red onion, olive oil, and capers. Let the mixture simmer until it reduces about 50 percent. Place fish fillet -- like salmon or white fish -- in the boiling mixture and cover the pot snuggly. Then remove the cooked fish from the steamer after about 5 minutes.

Slow Cooker

It turns out that a Crock-Pot is good for more than making stew and soup recipes. This kitchen gadget is also great for making steamed slow-cooker recipes. One of the easiest ways to steam vegetables in a slow cooker and a steamer basket is to add water, place veggies on the basket, and turn it on high for a few hours. If you don't have a basket, then wrap the vegetables in foil and place directly in the water. This is a great option for a slow cooker with a timer. Everything is ready when you walk in the door after a long day!

One of the biggest benefits of steaming your meals is that you can reduce or even omit the oils or other fatty ingredients that you may typically add to a pan-fried or pan-seared recipe, like butter, lard, and vegetable oil. So whether you're eating low-calorie meals or are on a weight-loss diet, using a slow cooker to steam your food is the way to go.

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