Raw Vs. Cooked Veggies: Which Way Do You Go?

Are you confused about the question of raw versus cooked veggies? Some say raw foods are better. They believe cooking kills the natural enzymes and impacts the nutritional content – vitamins and minerals – in plants. While others believe that cooking food makes it better for digestion, healthier and definitely tastier.

The two camps are extremely adamant about their stance and vested in their beliefs. Raw diets are taking the stage by a storm. And “cooked veggie” group is just as keen.

So, which way do you go? What is the truth about cooked and raw vegetables? How can you get the most out of your veggies?

As you’ll read further in this blog post, there are merits to both sides of the argument. Raw veggies do contain more nutrients and cooked food is great for digestion. But the answer to the question “raw versus cooked veggies?” is not straightforward at all.

Personally, I like some veggies raw and others cooked. I even use different cooking styles depending on the veggie I am eating. And I am always looking for ways to enhance the inherent value of food.

Foods that are more nutritious when cooked

It may be true that raw foods contain more nutrients, but not all of these nutrients are “active” and available to be consumed by the body. Also, much of the nutritional content is either lost or gets destroyed by the gut.

At the same time, the process of cooking can release locked-up nutrients in certain foods. This means, in certain foods that I will list in this section, the nutritional content is actually enhanced with cooking.

Here is a list of 5 foods that are more nutritious when you cook them:

1. Mushrooms: Mushrooms can contain mild traces of toxins. Cooking usually rinses them of these. Also, antioxidant levels in mushrooms are boosted with cooking.

2. Legumes: Sprouting and cooking legumes can improve their health benefits significantly, including providing protection against cancer and many neurodegenerative diseases.

3. Asparagus: Cooking asparagus enhances the levels of antioxidants in it, including molecules such as phenols, beta carotene, lutein, quercetin etc. that are activated.

4. Tomatoes: Tomatoes contain an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant called Lycopene. Lycopene is activated with cooking. Being a fat-soluble molecule, it is better absorbed by the body when consumed with some healthy fat such as olive oil.

5. Spinach: Steaming allows spinach to retain its rich folate content, and simultaneously, it reduces the amount of harmful oxalic acid content in spinach. Oxalic acid can hamper the body’s absorption of iron and calcium.

Foods that benefit you the most when eaten raw

Plants often contain beneficial enzymes that are destroyed when heated. This is true. However, our body also generates digestive enzymes that help in similar ways. The case differs for phytonutrients. This group together with water-soluble vitamins, can be easily destroyed by the process of cooking.

Research also suggests that eating raw foods may curb symptoms of depression and boost mental and emotional wellbeing. For people who are looking to control their weight, raw foods require more chewing and therefore slow down the eating process.

Here is a list of 3 foods that you may want to eat raw (at least sometimes):

1. Bell peppers: For all those who love the crisp and crunchy taste of raw bell peppers, that is exactly the way I recommend you eat this beautiful veggie. Cooking can destroy up to 75% of its goodness!

2. Onions: Raw onions taste great in salads and as sides. They add flavour and texture to any dish. Raw onions contain antiplatelet agents that protect the heart and boost cardiovascular health.

3. Cruciferous veggies: Its recommended that you eat your cruciferous veggies – broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc. – raw at least some of the time. If this prospect seems unappetizing, try mixing some raw pieces of the chopped veggie along with its steamed version for best of both worlds.

Raw vs. cooked: the bottom line

The bottom line on this debate of whether to “go raw” or “cook your veggie” is that you need both raw AND cooked veggies to meet your body’s nutritional demands. There is no one “decided” way that works for all food types. Some foods are better cooked and others are more beneficial raw.

Whether cooked or uncooked it is important to take in proper amounts of fruits and veggies – a variety of colourful, local and seasonal produce in a healthy balanced meal.

Listen to your body and read the signs that tell you what to eat and how. Share mealtimes with your friends and family. Eat seated and away from the distraction of your smartphone or telly. Savour what you eat. And, remember to do everything in moderation!

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