Monday, December 19, 2011

Are Veggies Healthier Raw or Cooked?

You can argue that vegetables and fruits are healthier when eaten raw, but cooking them also produces different nutrients and benefits that are worth exploring.

Woman holding wooden crate full of fresh produce
Fresh veggies are healthy, but cooking produce also offers benefits.

During a recent discussion about cooking, somebody said to me, "You're wrong, you shouldn't cook vegetables." Are nutrients and enzymes destroyed during cooking? The easy answer is "yes," but like most things, the truth is more complicated.

Cooking can soften fiber, making cell walls less rigid. This not only makes food easier to digest, but it also can make certain vitamins in the cell wall more available for absorption. Carrots, noted for their beta carotene, have higher levels of the nutrient when cooked. 

But with cooking comes compromise, too. Cooking carrots destroys many polyphenols. Antioxidants are used up during frying because the oil is constantly being oxidized. And although boiling can create more available beta-carotene in carrots, it also can leech water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C. 

Another example is tomatoes: They have significantly less vitamin C when cooked, but also much higher levels of lycopene, which may be a more potent antioxidant than vitamin C. And since vitamin C is found in many other common foods, cooked tomatoes might be the better choice. 

Similarly, cooking broccoli destroys myrosinase, but also increases indole levels. Both of these chemicals may prevent the growth of cancer cells. 

There are benefits and drawbacks to any food, and any cooking method; there is no one way to eat, just whatever way works for you.

Matt Keen, dietetic intern, and Debra A. Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

FALL 2017
Have questions about a program?
Request information »

More Health Tips

What’s motivating you to be healthy? Is it a spouse, grandchildren, a recent health scare, or a full bucket list to accomplish? Thinking about what motivates you will get you to start living a healthy lifestyle.

A natural way to fight sickness this winter.

Dr. Yang explains how the alternating application of hot and cold can reduce inflammation and promote recovery.

Dr. Shen-Miller offers his expertise on natural methods for coping with election related anxiety.

With the number of Type 2 Diabetes patients quickly rising, it's time to start preventing this disease by changing dietary and exercise habits. Dr. Jennifer Pilon sheds some light on how to prevent this disease naturally.

Learn how to get your fill of phytochemicals from various colorful fruits and veggies.