Effect of cooking methods on antioxidant activity and nitrate content of selected wild Mediterranean plants

Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2013 Nov;64(7):870-6. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2013.799125. Epub 2013 May 24.


Wild edible plants (WEP), traditionally consumed in the Mediterranean diet, are considered a rich source of natural antioxidants but can also accumulate significant amount of nitrates. Most WEP are cooked before consumption, therefore, a study was conducted to evaluate the effects of boiling, steaming and microwave cooking processes on the total antioxidant activity (TAA) and nitrate content of eight common WEP. Boiling caused the highest losses of TAA, resulting in a reduction of the TAA on dry weight (DW) basis ranging from 5.5% in Beta vulgaris up to 100% in Urtica dioica. Steaming and microwaving produced the highest increase of TAA on DW basis in Helminthotheca echioides (249.7%) and Taraxacum officinale (60.7%). Boiling caused the highest reduction of nitrate content in all species excluding Asparagus acutifolius that maintained almost unvaried its already low nitrate content. These results suggest that cooking has not always negative effect on product quality, since in certain cases, it may even enhance the nutritional value of WEP by increasing their TAA and reducing the nitrate content.

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / analysis*
  • Asparagus Plant
  • Beta vulgaris
  • Cooking / methods*
  • Diet, Mediterranean
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Microwaves
  • Nitrates / chemistry*
  • Nutritive Value
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Plants, Edible / chemistry*
  • Steam
  • Taraxacum
  • Urtica dioica
  • Water


  • Antioxidants
  • Nitrates
  • Steam
  • Water