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Which is Healthier for you? Raw vs. Cooked Vegetables


Raw Food enthusiasts make some serious assertions about the benefits of eating raw foods. They state that food in its natural state has its full complement of vitamins, minerals, food enzymes and much more. Moreover, if one wants the maximum amounts of these nutrients in a foods, cooking will damage the nutrient content, So what are we to think?

Does Cooking Destroy Nutrients?

Cooking does not destroy all nutrients. Recent research has shown that antioxidants actually increase when cooking certain vegetables. According to the Journal of Food Science, recent research shows that irrespective of cooking methods, certain vegetables seem to retain their nutrients better than others.  Beets, artichokes, green beans, and garlic seem to keep more of the antioxidant powers, regardless of how they are cooked. Carrots, celery, and green beans actually were more potent in removing free radicals after they were cooked.  Researchers aren’t sure why, but postulate that additional antioxidants may be freed due to cell wall destruction during cooking, or that new antioxidant compounds might be formed by “thermal/chemical reactions.”

A January 2008 report in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry said that boiling and steaming better preserves antioxidants, particularly carotenoids, in carrots, zucchini and broccoli. An earlier study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2002 showed that cooking carrots increased their level of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is part of a group of antioxidants called carotenoids, which give fruits and vegetables their red, yellow, and orange colorings. The body changes beta-carotene into vitamin A, which promotes healthy reproduction, supports bone growth and regulates immune system function.

Moreover, minerals are not affected by cooking.  In fact, they are often made far more bioavailable by cooking because  cooking breaks down the fiber where the minerals reside. In addition, gentle steaming, preserves some minerals as well.

Cooking actually has several nutritional advantages.  It breaks down the fiber in the food and renders the vegetables more digestible for many people.  It also helps kill some bacterias, viruses and parasites that may be on raw vegetables if they are not cleaned sufficiently.

The Downside of Cooking Vegetables

Some of the problems with cooking vegetables are that vitamins C and E are damaged. Cooking for about 10 minutes begins to destroy vitamin C, but does retain some of their vitamin C content.  Vitamin E is destroyed in about 20 minutes, depending on the temperature of cooking and the way the food is sliced and diced.
 However, cooking may be worth the tradeoff because vitamin C is prevalent in many other food sources. Another interesting fact is that stir-frying for under ten minutes preserves most Vitamin C and E.

Some problems with Raw Foods?

Today, one of the biggest issues concerning raw foods is improper cleanliness. Uncooked foods may contain bacteria and parasites. In addition, most people today cannot digest raw foods easily. This is because they lack the enzymes to digest cellulose and other vegetable fibers. Cows for example, have four stomachs to help them regurgitate their foods several times aiding in the digestion of raw foods. Humans do not have this capability, making digestion difficult. Many nutrients are bound in the starch matrix of vegetables and fruits and are unavailable if eaten raw because raw starches are difficult to assimilate into the body. Cooking breaks down the starch, cellulose and other fibers, rendering the nutrients more available for absorption.  Cooking also concentrates some vegetables such as the leafy greens, making it possible to eat much more of them at a sitting.

How to enjoy your vegetables?

A popular way to enjoy vegetables is in salads.  Hundreds of combinations are possible.  However, please be aware that you will not receive as much mineral nutrition from salads as you would from  eating your vegetables lightly cooked or steamed. This is because humans are less able than animals to break down vegetable fibers.  Try to incorporate one half a plate of lightly cooked vegetables into your diet twice a day. This will ensure that you receive an array of essential nutrients, some of which are simply not available from any other food source.

How to cook vegetables?

The right equipment makes preparing vegetables more pleasurable.  Buy an excellent vegetable knife.  These have a wide, thin blade made for slicing. Another great idea is to buy a vegetable steamer.  It makes cooking vegetables very easy. There are two types.  There is an inexpensive stainless steel steaming basket that can be purchased for as little as $5.00 or $6.00. Or you can purchase an electric steamer for as little at $30.00

The steamer basket sits in the base of your pot with a few inches of water. Just load your food into the steamer basket and set the timer in your kitchen. You may even want to give this idea a try. Drink the cooking water in this case, as it will contain many minerals.

The other option as mentioned is an electric steamer with a timer. This makes cooking vegetables very easy.  Just load your food into the steamer and set the timer.  Cleanup is simple as well.

Stir-frying is another popular method.  Coconut oil is a tasty and healthful oil.  Olive oil or dark sesame oil are also fine.

So what is one to do?

Cooked or raw. I say eat lots of  cooked vegetables as they are in season, prepared in a variety of ways.  Steaming is my first choice, but feel free to mix it up. From soups, to stir-fry,grilled to baked  dishes, all promote your health in various ways.

Salads are fine too, but you will not receive as much mineral nutrition because humans cannot digest these foods as well as animals. So if you indulge in the delightful variety of salad offerings, make sure you also include two servings of cooked vegetables daily as well.

Ignore the hype about raw being best and indulge your senses in distinctive taste  of fresh, seasonal veggies prepared in a variety of ways.

How do you eat most of your vegetables?

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No Responses to “Which is Healthier for you? Raw vs. Cooked Vegetables”

  1. Melissa says:

    That was very informative. I had read a little about eating raw in the past. I was turned off by never getting to eat hot food in the cool weather. It’s good to know it wouldn’t have been worth the effort.

    I love all the articles you have been linking us to. They are very informative.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wow! What an interesting post! I hate raw vegetables. I am so glad that cooked are a lot healthier for you!

  3. Anonymous says:

    What an informative post! I’ll definitely cook my carrots and celery from now on and be sure to scrub those vegetables. Thanks for the information Joy!

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