There are a lot of different ideas about there about food, and technically if you’re eating a lot of vegetables you’re probably ahead of the game. But that being said, different vegetables can actually be more or less healthy based on the way they are prepared. Some are better raw, and some have more health benefits when they are cooked. Here’s how to know.
According to Joel Fuhrman, MD, a nutrition researcher, family physician and author:
“With some vegetables, the micronutrients are heat-sensitive and can be destroyed by cooking. But with others, cooking allows the body to absorb more of the beneficial compounds because heat releases the nutrients from the cell matrix to which they are bound.”
Veggies You Should Cook
The tomato is one vegetable is good to cook, since when it’s cooked its cell wall breaks down which will help release more of the healthy lycopene it has to offer. Corn, bell peppers, and carrots may also release more of their nutrients when they are cooked.
Some people believe that mushrooms should never be eaten raw, since they contain small amounts of toxins that are removed during the cooking process. Mushrooms also have fairly strong cell walls that make them more difficult to digest without being cooked, so you might get more of the health benefits by cooking those as well.
Veggies You Should Eat Raw
Onions are one vegetable that is way better for you when it is eaten raw. Raw onions have compounds called organosulfides released when they are chopped up, and those compounds have strong anti-inflammatory benefits. However you can still get these benefits when the onion is cooked, it just needs to be chopped while it is raw. With larger onions this might seem obvious but for smaller ones that you don’t normally chop they might be better off raw.
Veggies that are Good Both Ways
Some vegetables have extra health benefits when they are cooked…but have different ones when they are raw. Vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, collards, and kale when chopped or chewed release an enzyme called myrosinase which activates an antioxidant response in the body. Cooking those vegetables gets rid of the myrosinase. However, there are other nutrients that are more available to the body when these vegetables are cooked, so really you should feel free to mix these ones up as you see fit.
Keep in mind that the way you cook vegetables is important as well. Steaming is always a good choice since there aren’t any added calories involved. It’s easy to overcook vegetables in the microwave or while sauteeing which can remove a lot of their nutritional benefits, so always aim for a quick steam when possible. Be careful of boiling veggies however, because when we do that we might end up dumping a lot of the nutrients with the water. It is however okay to boil veggies to cook them in soup, since we end up eating the broth as well instead of discarding it.