Some vegetables you should cook because your body can absorb more nutrition from them when you add heat. Eating vegetables raw isn’t always the most nutritious option.
You’re well aware that vegetables are good for you—but did you know that their nutritional value depends on how you prepare them? The raw food diet has definitely generated a lot of hype in recent years, due to the fact that some naturally-occurring vitamins and phytonutrients are destroyed once certain foods are cooked. But as it turns out, there are some vegetables that are healthier cooked. Why? Because cooking vegetables often makes it easier for you to absorb the important nutrients that they contain.
In fact, one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that women who followed a wholesome nutrition diet absorbed more of the beta-carotene than the women who followed a raw food diet. In other words, even though women who adhered to a raw food diet consumed more of that crucial antioxidant, they reaped less of its benefits.
The bottom line is, cooking certain vegetables makes many of their nutrients more accessible for your body to use—not to mention, they can be a little tastier and easier to digest.
So, which ones should you be cooking? Consider turning up the heat on these 5 veggies that are more nutritious when cooked.
Five Vegetables You Should Cook
According to the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University, tomatoes lose a lot of vitamin C when they’re cooked. However, a 2002 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that cooked tomatoes have significantly higher levels of lycopene than raw ones, likely because the heat helps to break down the thick cell walls, which contain a number of important nutrients. That’s worth noting because lycopene is one of the most powerful antioxidants available—and it’s been linked to a lower risk of numerous chronic diseases, like cardiovascular disease and cancer.
As for how to cook them, lycopene is absorbed by your body more effectively when consumed with a healthy fat, so pair your roasted tomatoes with olives, or drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil.
This springtime veggie is chock-full of cancer-fighting vitamins A, C, and E — and a 2009 study published in the International Journal of Food Science & Technology revealed that cooking it boosted its antioxidant activity by 16 to 25%. Meanwhile, another 2009 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that cooking asparagus increased its levels of phenolic acid, which is associated with a reduced risk of cancer.
Note that because vitamins A and E are both fat-soluble, meaning they become easier for your body to absorb when they’re paired with a fat source, you should consider cooking your asparagus in olive oil, or serving it with some toasted seeds.
Ever noticed how this dark leafy green shrinks when you cook it? That means you’re likely to eat more of it, and, of course, consuming more spinach means you’ll reap more of its nutrients.
But that’s not all—a 2005 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that steaming spinach can reduce the vegetable’s oxalic acid—which interferes with your body’s absorption of iron and calcium—by up to 53 percent. Plus, research has revealed that steaming this veggie ensures that it retains its levels of folate, an important B vitamin that not only plays a role in making DNA but can also reduce the risk of several types of cancer. And according to North Ohio Heart/Ohio Medical Group, cooked spinach packs more calcium, magnesium, and iron.
Antioxidants are heroic little substances that can protect your cells from damage, which may reduce your risk of certain chronic diseases. Mushrooms (which are technically fungi) happen to be packed with antioxidants, and a 2006 study published in the journal Food Chemistry discovered that exposing this veggie to heat drastically enhanced its overall antioxidant activities. As an added bonus, cooked mushrooms have higher levels of potassium, niacin, and zinc than raw ones, according to The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrient database reports.
Not only that, but certain types of raw mushrooms contain agaritine, a potentially cancer-causing substance—and cooking them helps to get rid of this toxin.
Before you go munching on some crudités, consider this: According to a 2009 study in the Journal of Food Science, celery is one of the vegetables you should cook becomes healthier when it’s cooked. Note, however, that its antioxidant capacity only increased via certain cooking methods, including microwaving, pressure-cooking, griddling, frying, and baking. When boiled, this veggie actually lost 14 percent of its antioxidant activity.
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