Many people think raw vegetables are better for them than cooked ones. It’s true that cooking veggies in boiling water or frying them destroys much of their nutritional value, especially vitamin C, but there are vegetables that have more health benefits if you eat them cooked – not raw. In addition, there are other vegetables that can be toxic if you eat too many of them uncooked. Here are five vegetables that are better for you when you cook them first.
Tomatoes are a rich source of a natural antioxidant called lycopene. Preliminary research shows that lycopene reduces the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer. Eating tomatoes in their uncooked state will only give you a portion of the lycopene that’s available when you eat tomatoes cooked. Cooking and processing help to break down the cell wall and release those heart-healthy lycopenes. That’s why ketchup and tomato sauce are more antioxidant-rich than raw tomatoes, but also have other health concerns because of the added ingredients.
Carrots are another vegetable that is better for you cooked. Carrots contain an antioxidant called beta-carotene that’s important for a healthy immune system, for growth, and for good vision. Exposing carrots to heat releases more of this natural compound that gives you brilliant night vision. To get the most health benefits, steam your carrots, and add a small amount of butter or olive oil. The fat helps your body better absorb beta-carotene.
Eating raw mushrooms could increase your risk of cancer. In their raw state, they contain chemicals called hydrazines that are believed to be carcinogenic. Fortunately, cooking destroys them. Even common button mushrooms available at most grocery stores contain this cancer-causing chemical. Mushrooms are a healthy food, but cook them before putting them in your mouth.
Not many people fancy eating a potato raw, and that’s a good thing. Potatoes that are exposed to bright light for prolonged periods of time can build up high levels of glycoalkaloids that cause illness. Cooking doesn’t completely destroy glycoalkaloids, but it does reduce amounts of this toxic chemical. Don’t store potatoes in direct light, and don’t eat them if portions of the flesh are green in color.
Sweet potatoes contain an enzyme inhibitor that blocks an enzyme involved in protein breakdown. This makes it difficult to digest a meal containing raw sweet potatoes. Eating sweet potatoes raw may not kill you, but it could give you indigestion. Fortunately, most people prefer them cooked.
Drawbacks to Cooking Vegetables
Cooking veggies destroys much of the vitamin C in vegetables along with some B vitamins. To get the most health benefits, steam veggies lightly with as little water as possible to avoid loss of vitamins and nutrients. Microwaving vegetables is also a good option since cooking times are short. To make up for the loss of vitamin C, eat a piece of raw fruit each day such as kiwi or citrus fruit. Enjoy munching on raw vegetables, but eat these five veggies cooked.
Scientific American. “Fact or Fiction: Raw Veggies Are Healthier Than Cooked Ones”
Harvard Medical School. “Microwave Cooking and Nutrition”