Vegetables That Are Healthier For You Cooked Than Raw
It’s no secret that vegetables have the word “healthy” stamped all over them when it comes to choosing foods that are good for the body. But, the debate continues over whether raw vegetables are healthier than cooked vegetables.
Previously published studies have shown that essential nutrients are enhanced when vegetables are heated than when eaten raw. And, the vegetables taste better, too. Researchers say boiling, steaming, and stir-frying are the best ways to cook vegetables.
What’s more, heating vegetables with tough skins, like carrots and asparagus, makes them softer, easier to chew, and easier to digest. According to Amy Keating, a dietitian at Consumer Reports, some nutrients are bound in the cell walls of vegetables. So, cooking breaks down the walls and releases the nutrients so the body can more easily absorb them.
Here are seven popular vegetables that can take the heat and provide multiple health benefits to the body:
Asparagus makes the list of vegetables with healthy benefits whether eaten raw or cooked. The green-stalked vegetable is low in calories, high in antioxidants, and contains fiber, folate, and vitamins A, C, and E. Asparagus is tough, but cooking the vegetable will soften it up. Not only will heating the stalky food make it more flexible, but it increases the antioxidant activity, according to a 2009 study published in the International Journal of Food Science & Technology.
A creamy dip makes broccoli a bit tastier. But, heating the popular green vegetable delivers more benefits than just a better taste. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), cooking fresh broccoli increases alpha-tocopherol, a nutrient that serves as a type of vitamin E. The NCI says that alpha-tocopherol boosts the immune system and helps keep blood clots from forming.
Besides that, a study published in January 2008 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that cooking broccoli in water better preserved the vegetable’s antioxidant compounds, particularly carotenoids, which are pigments in plants that act as a type of antioxidant.
Carrots are the “go-to” food when it comes to eating healthy and losing weight because the orange vegetable is low in calories and rich in vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, iron, potassium, fiber, and other nutrients. Although raw carrot slices go well with a dip, cooked carrots are softer and easier to chew. But that’s not the only benefit of heating the vegetable.
Carrots provide more antioxidants when boiled or steamed than when eaten raw, according to a January 2008 report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. In fact, researchers found that boiling carrots until tender increased the concentration of carotenoids by 14 percent.
Green Bell Pepper
Whether red, green, yellow, or orange, bell peppers are packed with nutrients. A 2012 study published in Vegetos: An International Journal of Plant Research found that cooking green bell peppers has special benefits. According to the study, green bell peppers work to bind bile acids, which are important for digestion and breaking down fats. Bile acid-binding has been associated with lowering cholesterol, lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Green bell peppers are also a good source of vitamins A and C, both of which are good immune-system boosters.
Mushrooms are not just good for topping off pizzas. Mushrooms are high in copper, folate, niacin, and potassium, a mineral that helps the body maintain normal heart rhythm, fluid balance, and muscle and nerve function. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a two-third cup of sliced, grilled portabella mushrooms contains the same amount of potassium as a medium-sized banana. Along with portabella mushrooms, the USDA analyzed shiitake mushrooms after stir-frying. The analysis showed most nutrients were found to be fully retained when cooked.
A study published in the International Journal of Food Science & Technology in November 2017, found that steaming or microwaving increased the antioxidant value of mushrooms. Pressure cooking showed the best overall antioxidant value.
Spinach is rich in several minerals and vitamins, including vitamins A, B2, B6, C, E, and K, calcium, iron, protein, fiber, and zinc. A 2018 study published in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology found that the retention of beta-carotene (an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A) in cooked spinach was higher than the beta-carotene in raw spinach. The study also found that blanching (scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time prior to freezing them) isn’t good for spinach because it destroys vitamin C.
To really boost the inherent nutrients in a tomato, put some heat under it. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a cancer-fighting antioxidant. Cooking tomatoes boosts the antioxidant activity in lycopene because the heat breaks down the tomato’s thick cell walls and helps the body absorb some nutrients that are bound to those cell walls, according to Rui Hai Liu, an associate professor of food science at Cornell University who has researched lycopene.