Are Vegetables More Nutritious Raw or Cooked?
By Amy Silva
Everyone knows that vegetables are healthy and full of nutrients. One of the first things we do when we decide we want to get healthier is make a commitment to add more vegetables to our diets. There can be some confusion as to which method of preparation is best, as well as wondering if the raw versions are the healthiest. Does it really matter if vegetables are raw, cooked or prepared a certain way, or is it all the same in the end?
Do Vegetables Lose Nutrients After Being Cooked?
The short answer is that vegetables do sometimes lose nutrients after being cooked, but not always. The method of cooking is one variable regarding which, and how many, nutrients are lost. Vegetables that are boiled or cooked in a pressure cooker lose the most. Regarding Vitamin C alone, boiling can cause certain vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli, to lose half after being boiled. It's a better choice to steam, or even microwave vegetables, than it is to boil. Research shows that even though some vegetables do lose certain nutrients after being cooked, other nutrients can be enhanced. This also varies with the method used to cook them.
Are Raw Vegetables More Nutritious Than Cooked?
Two examples of vegetables that show an increase of nutrients after cooking include tomatoes and spinach. Tomatoes that have been cooked contain higher lycopene than raw tomatoes, and lycopene is said to help fight cancer. Cooked spinach contains over eight times the amount of calcium as raw spinach. The beta carotene in carrots is increased when they're stir-fried versus when they're raw, and our bodies process the beta carotene easier once cooked.
Garlic, onions, red peppers, cabbage, kale, cauliflower and broccoli are some examples that have wonderful health benefits when eaten raw. Are they healthier raw than cooked? That depends on which nutrient is considered. For example, when cooked, broccoli may help to reduce cholesterol. When raw, it contains an enzyme, myrosinase, that may help stop cancer cells from growing. This enzyme is lost if the broccoli is cooked. Another example would be red peppers and their loss of Vitamin C, but increased levels of antioxidants after cooking. Nutrients will vary between vegetables that are raw and cooked, so it's a good idea to mix it up.
A diet that includes both raw and cooked vegetables is a great way to ensure you get good amounts of different nutrients your body needs. Some vitamins and minerals will be lost due to cooking methods, but others will increase, so having a variety of raw and cooked vegetables is helpful.
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