Vegetables—raw or cooked?

Whether it is because you made a New Year’s Resolution to eat healthier food; or you want to lose weight by trading some of your starchy carbs for vegetables; or you know your friendly bacteria are waiting for their dinner; or you’ve just had a nagging voice in your head (memory of Mom’s advice?) that you should eat more vegetables…this can be a good time to get serious about those veggies. You’ve probably heard that eating raw is best. (Raw food disciples can become quite belligerent.) But that may not be always the case. In addition to some reasons covered in the article below, raw vegetables take more “digestive fire” (energy & enzymes) to digest and therefore juicing or cooking vegetables for many folks may be more healing. I decided that instead of reinventing the wheel, I’d just provide the following excellent ARTICLE by Andrew Shepherd, DC. He sent me a link and gave me permission to use it. [as usual this style notes is mine.]

“In order to achieve optimal health, vegetables should be a key component of our diets. Federal guidelines recommend that adults have at least 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day as part of a healthy eating pattern. This has been found to reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure, while boosting the health of blood vessels and the immune system. Furthermore, vegetables contain antioxidants which may reduce DNA damage, thus reducing the risk of cancer. The more fresh produce we incorporate into our meals every day, the better!

That being said, what is the best way to prepare these nutritious dietary treasures? Believe it or not, eating vegetables raw doesn’t offer the most benefits in all cases. In fact, studies have shown that the process of cooking breaks down the tough outer layers and the cellular structure of many vegetables, making it easier for our body to absorb their nutrients. So, boil, roast [e.g. tossed in oil and then roasted in a convection oven], steam, saute or microwave? The answer is not entirely simple; it can vary depending on the type of vegetable.

Generally speaking, cooking vegetables with as little water as possible for the shortest amount of time is the best method. That’s why boiling is not usually the best option. When you boil vegetables in a large pot of water, the water-soluble vitamins [and some minerals] leach into the cooking liquid and are lost. One exception to this rule, however, is carrots. Studies show that boiling or steaming carrots increase beta-carotene levels.

Steaming or microwaving vegetables is a solid choice for preparing produce. Using a small amount of water helps the vegetables retain their beneficial qualities.

Quickly sauteing your veggies in a pan with a bit of olive oil (akin to stir-frying) is another good option for cooking. Just be sure to cook them al dente…the softer the vegetables are when cooked is generally a sign of how much nutritional value has been lost.

Comparing nutrients in raw and cooked vegetables is complicated and there will be trade-offs. The best approach is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and eat them in a variety of ways. This ensures that you get a mix of nutrients delivered by various methods of preparation. Whatever technique you choose, just be sure to eat more vegetables for better health!”

[Another easy and delicious choice is any of the dried organic vegetable powders from Brightcore.]

2 Responses

  1. Karen Scribner says:

    It looks like most of the things in this picture are fruits, should be eaten raw.

    • Healthy By Nature says:

      I took this photo in the vegetable section of a Whole Foods. You are right, the bell peppers are botanically speaking a fruit, but most people treat them as vegetables. Probably, no matter what I say, people will eat them raw. I don’t think that is a problem nor would it be a nutrition calamity to bake some stuffed peppers.

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