The raw food movement that’s been active for decades, advocates eating uncooked foods, so as to avoid destroying the nutrients through cooking. Research has shown that while this may be true for several fruit, vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes, there are some exceptions to the rule.
Some foods are much better for you, when consumed cooked. The fiber found in plants often binds particularly to minerals, and makes them less available for the body to use. Since heating helps to break down the fiber, release some of the minerals for absorption and generally enhance their bioavailability, cooking certain vegetables is necessary and beneficial for health. So which ones should you cook? Read on to find out.
Surprising as it may sound, tomatoes are better when cooked. They’re usually added to salad in raw form, but heating tomatoes increases their levels of lycopene, the antioxidant that makes tomatoes red. It has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer and may also improve heart health. Slow-cooking tomatoes by using them in sauces, soup, or just roasting them whole, does wonders for this tangy and juicy fruit that is often mistaken for a vegetable. However, overheating destroys other vitamins, so don’t rely on just cooked tomatoes. Balance out your diet with raw tomatoes as well.
The hardy green is rich in oxalates that bind to valuable minerals such as iron and calcium. Both fiber and oxalates can make iron particularly difficult to absorb, and we may only get around five percent of the iron content from many leafy vegetables. Cooking helps in this case. Again, it is important not to overcook spinach, as other nutrients are lost. Light cooking or wilting is certainly better than boiling (wherein the nutrients leach out into the pan and get washed away when we drain the leaves).
Abundant in carotenoids, which give them their vivid orange color, carrots are healthier when heated. Heating can increase the carotenoid content, which can provide many benefits, as they have powerful antioxidant properties. Try steaming carrots rather than boiling, and ensure that you eat a mixture of raw and cooked carrots too.
Heating these green spears can help increase their nutrient bioavailability and their polyphenol content. Polyphenols, also found in tea, red wine and chocolate, have strong antioxidant properties and help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancers. Lightly steaming without adding fats like butter, is the best way to cook asparagus.
These fungi contain reasonable amounts of vitamins and minerals, and their nutrient value is only improved by light cooking. However, you should be careful not to use fats when cooking them, as they can absorb an inordinate amount of oil. Braising, lightly roasting and grilling without charring are the best ways to cook them.
Cooking anything at a lower temperature for less time is a healthier option in general. Use crock pots on low settings, or if you love grilled vegetables, choose juicy ones such as tomatoes and peppers, which don’t dry out with cooking. Generally, a quick steaming is best because it makes beneficial nutrients more absorbable while causing minimal damage to heat-sensitive ones. Sautéing is fine but be careful not to overcook the veggies, which is easy to do. On all accounts avoid boiling, unless you are making a soup or stew since the water-soluble nutrients can be reclaimed from the tasty liquids.