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Cooked or Raw? The Best Way to Eat Veggies

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Cooked or Raw? The Best Way to Eat Veggies

“Eat your veggies–they’re good for you!” Sound familiar?  It’s no wonder we have been encouraged to eat lots of vegetables–they are packed with a variety of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants to keep you healthy. But do you know the advantages and disadvantages of cooking vegetables versus eating them raw?

A common question is whether or not to cook vegetables, as concern lies in the destruction of nutrients when exposed to heat. The simple answer? It really doesn’t matter if you eat vegetables raw or cooked.  Most vitamin and mineral loss is not major, and the benefits of eating vegetables outweigh the potential nutrient losses. 

General tips to retain nutrients:

  • Refrigerate vegetables and try to only purchase the amount you plan to use.
  • If possible, buy seasonal produce at your local farmers market to maximize the nutrient retention.
  • Store most vegetables in airtight containers.
  • Wait to wash vegetables just before cutting or using them.
  • Minimize cooking time and the amount of water used.
  • Steam, roast or grill to add flavor without sacrificing nutritional value. 

Cooked vegetables:

There are benefits to cooking specific vegetables because some of their antioxidants are better absorbed in their cooked form. 

  • Carrots, when cooked, contain more of the antioxidant beta carotene. This antioxidant is converted to vitamin A, which can improve bone, eye and reproductive health. 
  • Cooked tomatoes may contain 35% more lycopene, a carotenoid that has been associated with the reduced incidence of heart disease and cancer. Enjoy stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce for a nutrient boost. 
  • Asparagus contains the antioxidant ferulic acid which can be beneficial when heated. 
  • Kale, when steamed, can improve its ability to bind bile acid, which is linked to lowering cholesterol. Cooking kale also raises its beta-carotene content.   
  • Other vegetables that pack an extra benefit when cooked include spinach, mushrooms, cabbage and peppers.   

Raw vegetables:

The benefits of eating raw vegetables include maintaining the nutrient levels of certain minerals and water soluble vitamins, such as vitamins B and C. 

  • Kale supplies a significant amount of vitamin C when raw. 
  • Raw tomatoes keep their high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants.
  • Carrots eaten raw retain polyphenols, which are phytochemicals that are beneficial to health. 
  • Red peppers and cabbage are other vegetables rich in vitamin C that you can munch on raw.

So fire up the grill, break out the roasting pan or just wash, peel and crunch on a raw vegetable.  Though there are both advantages and disadvantages to cooking or not cooking vegetables, just prepare them the way you are more likely to eat them. There is no “wrong way” to eat a vegetable except when they are breaded and deep-fried! Remember to fill half your lunch and dinner plate with lots of colorful vegetables.

Click here for a wealth of information about vegetables, including what’s in season, cooking instructional videos, recipes, nutrition information and resourceful tips. 

For a personalized nutrition consultation, meal planning tips and healthy eating advice, visit Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by: Colleen Loveland, MS, RDN, LD, CDE, registered dietitian nutritionist, licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Cooper Clinic.