Raw vegetables are often touted as superior to cooked veggies, and this is sometimes true. Cooking can potentially lead to the degradation of enzymes, vitamins and antioxidants – higher levels of which generally equate with a healthier food.
However, as is often the case there are exceptions to the ‘rule’ that raw is better. With some vegetables the cooking process actually helps to break down fiber, helping with digestion, and may make certain nutrients more bioavailable to your body.
Supermarket Guru recently highlighted five such vegetables that are actually healthier when cooked … along with the best cooking methods to use.
- Tomatoes: Cooking boosts the amount of the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes by up to 35 percent – excellent news for those of you who love a good tomato sauce! Lycopene may help lower your risk of cancer and supports heart health.
- Carrots: Cooked carrots have higher levels of beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. Blanching or steaming carrots will help preserve their antioxidants.
- Cruciferous Veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.): Cooking cruciferous vegetables leads to the formation of cancer-fighting indole. Chopping or chewing these veggies may also activate detoxifying enzymes in your liver that may help neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation. Soups made from cruciferous vegetables (such as cream of broccoli) are a good choice, since many of their nutrients are water-soluble.
- Mushrooms: Nutrients including calcium, iron, zinc and antioxidants increase when mushrooms are cooked. Plus, cooking mushrooms with a bit of butter or olive oil will allow you to absorb more of the fat-soluble vitamin D they contain.
- Winter Squash: Winter squash can be eaten raw, but it’s far more enjoyable to most when it’s cooked. The good news is that its nutrients are well retained when it’s baked, making baked winter squash a wonderful source of beta carotene for your lung, eye, skin and immune system health.
There is, of course, a fine line when it comes to cooking fresh produce. Overcooking is not recommended and will typically deplete heat-sensitive nutrients, such as vitamin C. When you do cook your veggies, choose gentle methods like steaming or quick sautéing, and only cook to a ‘tender-crisp’ (not mushy) consistency.
Overall, strive for a healthy balance of both cooked and raw foods in your diet, and remember that, in most cases, raw fruits and vegetables will win out over cooked, nutrition wise.