• Tami Bruskotter

Post #11 Raw or Cooked? Getting The Most Out of Your Veggies

In Podcast Episode #7 we get into the best prep for veggies!

Of course, eating lots of vegetables, prepared in any way, means you're getting important nutrients into your body. And, yes, I know that some of what we classify as veggies are actually fruits...Lookin' at you, Tomato! But what if the prep method means you could be significantly increasing the benefits? What if I overcook them? What if my family hates vegetables, cooked or raw?

Cooking veggies may reduce some enzymes, but it will also make many more nutrients available for your system (and we actually make our own digestive enzymes). Personally, when I'm having stomach issues I just mentally review what I've been eating for the last few days, and I can usually trace my problems back to a binge of raw fruits and vegetables.

Here's a list from Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief of of some foods you may want to sometimes cook:

Spinach — This dark green leafy vegetable shrinks up when cooked, which makes it easier to eat more. Spinach contains oxalic acid, which can hurt your body’s absorption of calcium and iron. But steaming spinach has been shown to cut the oxalic acid by five to 53%. Steaming also allows the spinach to retain its folate content, a B-vitamin that helps your body produce DNA.

Asparagus — A 2009 study published in the International Journal of Food Science & Technology found that cooking asparagus increased its antioxidant and cancer-fighting activity (including phenols, quercetin, rutin, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin) by 16 to 25%. And a 2009 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that cooking asparagus increased the level of two types of phenolic acid, which has been linked to lower cancer rates.

Tomatoes — Lycopene (found in many red and pink pigmented foods) is an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory, and has been linked to lower levels of cancer and heart attacks. A 2002 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that cooking actually boosted the amount of lycopene in tomatoes. Also, lycopene is a fat-soluble antioxidant, which means it’s better absorbed by your body when consumed with some healthy form of fat.

Mushrooms — Mushrooms retain more antioxidants when cooked. A 2006 study published in the journal Food Chemistry found that using heat significantly enhanced the overall antioxidant activities of Shiitake mushrooms. Now some types of raw mushrooms contain a potentially carcinogenic substance called agaritine. Joel Fuhrman, MD, says cooking mushrooms for even a few minutes gets rid of most of the mild toxins they contain.

Potatoes — In general, raw potatoes contain a lot of resistant starch, which can cause gas and bloating. Raw potatoes also have anti-nutrients (which can interfere with the absorption of key vitamins and minerals) that decrease during cooking.

Carrots, Celery, and Green Beans — A 2009 study published in the Journal of Food Science found two vegetables that actually become healthier with cooking — carrots and celery. Green beans did, too, except when they were boiled or pressure cooked. Cooking and pureeing carrots (with the skins on) can multiply their antioxidant power threefold! Roasting can also boost nutrients.

LegumesMost legumes can’t be eaten raw, though some can be sprouted as an alternative to cooking. Some beans (red kidney beans in particular) contain a specific lectin that can cause gastrointestinal issues; however, cooking deactivates this compound. A 2013 study published in the journal Food Chemistry found that both sprouting and cooking beans improved some of their health benefits including their neuroprotective and anti-cancer effects. Garlic - The powerhouse in garlic is allicin and it can kill bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, yeasts, and molds, and help control diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Get the allicin in garlic to form by letting any chopped garlic sit for 10 minutes before cooking it.

Here are some foods that have extra benefits when left raw:

Bell Peppers — Whether you like your peppers red, green, or orange, it’s better to eat them raw. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Food Science found that bell peppers lost up to 75% of their antioxidants when cooked.

Broccoli — According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, raw broccoli contains three times the amount of the cancer-fighting compound sulforaphane.

Onions — While cooked onions have plenty of health benefits, raw onions contain antiplatelet agents, which protect against heart disease.

Garlic — Ok, so this one appears on both lists...depends on what you're looking for. Raw garlic contains special sulfur compounds which have an anti-carcinogenic (anti-cancer) effect. A 2001 study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that cooking can destroy these sulfur compounds.

This doesn't mean you have to cook these foods every time you eat them! Just mix it up a bit. You may find that a veggie your kids say they hate may really have more to do with how it's prepared.

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