Vegetables and fruit should make up a vast majority of any healthy and balanced diet, yet have you ever wondered if it is healthier to cook your vegetables or to eat them raw?
Many different diets preach conflicting views on this topic, however, the truth is that from a nutritional standpoint there is no ‘black and white’ when it comes to cooked vs raw vegetables. There are certain vegetables that will lose some of their nutritional value when cooked (for example vitamin C is lost when heated), whereas the nutrients in other vegetables can only be unlocked when they are heated.
One of the leading arguments when it comes to eating raw foods is that enzymes stored within foods, designed to aid growth as well as digestion, are all heat sensitive. So this means that by cooking these vegetables, many of these enzymes are killed off.
It is important to point out here though, that our bodies produce their own digestive enzymes and there is no evidence available to suggest that this loss of enzymes in vegetables will impact on their nutrient value.
Here is a basic outline of the benefits to either cooking or eating fruits and vegetables raw:
Cooking First - Cooking vegetables often helps to break down the cell walls which makes the process of digestion easier and aids in the absorption of certain nutrients. Specific nutrients, such as ferulic acid, lycopene and beta-carotene, which are different antioxidants found in vegetables such as asparagus, tomatoes and carrots, are more easily accessible once they have been heated.
Eating Raw - Over-cooking most vegetables will reduce their nutrition value, yet some nutrients can be destroyed altogether. Vitamin C and B, both water soluble nutrients, are often lost in the heating process. Other nutrients, such as minerals potassium, iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium can be lost by up to 70% during the heating process, depending on the temperature and length of time they are heated. Some foods, such as watercress and broccoli, contain an anti-cancer fighting compound known as glucosinolates, that are dramatically reduced when heated.
So the bottom line is this, regardless of whether you eat your fruits and vegetables cooked or raw, you are going to be gaining important nutrients. However, it is a good idea to try and incorporate a combination of both cooked and raw produce into your diet. When cooking your vegetables, try not to overcook them and opt for cooking methods such as steaming or microwaving, to help retain their nutrients.
But at the end of the day, any fresh vegetables are better than none!