Cooked might be better than raw
It’s a good idea to eat your vegetables, right? You have heard that message many times before. Believe it or not, sometimes it is better to have your vegetables cooked, rather than raw. According to Cornell University researchers, cooking the produce releases many of the nutrients that are bound in the cell walls, making them more absorbable by the body.
Here are a few cooking tips for specific vegetables:
Tomatoes: Cook these for about 30 minutes. They can easily be oven-roasted after tossing with olive oil. This increases the lycopene in tomatoes, a phytochemical that can reduce cancer risk.
Spinach: Blanch raw spinach leaves quickly in boiling or saute in a smidge of vegetable oil. This reduces the oxalates that bind calcium and iron, making these two minerals more available to the body.
Asparagus: This delicate spring vegetable contains several antioxidants including phenolic acid. Microwave for just three minutes to increase the digestive availability of these antioxidants that can reduce risk of developing cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Use different cooking methods depending upon the type of vegetables:
- Stir fry broccoli, cauliflower and green peppers with tofu and water chestnuts
- Saute onions, peppers and mushrooms before adding to meatloaf mixture
- Steam carrots and sweet potato chunks until just tender; then toss with a touch of honey
- Blanch fresh baby kale before tossing with balsamic vinegar
- Oven roast brussel sprouts halves and red onions after a toss with olive oil
Although cooking vegetables does seem to have health benefits, it doesn’t mean cooking veggies to mush. Overcooking results in a loss of nutrients, especially vitamin C and some of the B-vitamins.
Raw spinach and lettuce are still OK in sandwiches. Coleslaw made with raw cabbage, green peppers and grated carrots is good, too. Crispy raw veggies are always perfect for your meals. But, don’t be worried that quick cooking will be less nutritious – it is simply not the case.
Recipes including cooked vegetables:
About the Author
Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.