Ever wonder what cooking preparations to observe to optimize the nutritional content of vegetables? Contrary to popular belief, eating vegetables raw isn’t the best for the health. That’s because some nutrients are activated only when heated. While some vegetables are best eaten raw, it’s the opposite in other veggies.
Vegetables -raw or cooked – are a part of a balanced, health diet. In order to meet your nutrient needs, you need to load up on vegetables. The way you prepare the produce can affect their nutritional value. Below are factors you have to consider to determine if fresh or cooked veggies work the best for your needs:
It’s true, heating certain vegetables lead to nutrient loss. This is true especially if the veggies are boiled. Some vegetables lose as much as 30% of their vitamins and 15% of water-soluble minerals when cooked in water. The fact is, some nutrients are more sensitive to temperature. These nutrients include vitamin C, thiamine, folate, and potassium.
Tip: To maximize the nutritional value of veggies, blanch them instead of boiling in water. Sautéing, steaming and roasting the vegetables also minimize nutrient loss.
Some nutrients are activated by heat, others are broken down. For instance, vitamin A, calcium, iron and antioxidant lycopene are activated when heated. That’s why cooking some vegetables boosts the availability of these nutrients. When the plant cell walls are brown down, the body is able to absorb some vitamins, minerals and antioxidants better.
In some cases, you end up eating more veggies when they are cooked. That’s because veggies like spinach, cabbage and lettuce shrinks down when they are cooked. As such, you end up consuming more of these vegetables when they are cooked, rather than when they are raw. And that even accounts for nutrient loss.
Tip: Asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers and onions are some of vegetables that are best eaten raw. Meanwhile, mushroom, beets, and spinach are examples of vegetables that are best eaten cooked.
According to a review article published in “Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention,” most types of vegetables – raw and cooked – cut the risk of certain cancers.
However, raw vegetables have higher cancer-fighting potential than cooked vegetables. That’s because some antioxidants are destroyed when exposed to high heat. For example, myrosinase is a plant-based compound found in broccoli. This compound helps break down substances in broccoli to release isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates is a nutrient that protects from cancer. It’s destroyed when the vegetable is cooked. This is why cooked broccoli contains two-thirds fewer isothiocyanates than raw broccoli.
On the other hand, the antioxidant lycopene isn’t released unless tomatoes go through various stages of cooking. This is the reason why tomato catsup, pasta sauces, and tomato-based canned goods contain more lycopene than fresh tomatoes.
Contamination and Safety
The reason why some people prefer cooked veggies over fresh veggies is safety. Some vegetables could be contaminated with harmful microbes. Cooking these vegetables help destroy these food-born microbes, preventing diseases. As such, cooked vegetables are less harmful than raw vegetables.
Tip: When storing vegetables, keep them separated from meat products. Microbes from meat products could contaminate the vegetables. Storing vegetables properly minimizes the risk of food poisoning.