Remember how a few years ago the raw food diet was all the hype in the health world? Turns out there are actually some vegetables that are healthier cooked! Why? Because cooking vegetables can often make it easier for our bodies to absorb the important nutrients they contain. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition even revealed that although women who followed a raw food diet consumed more of the antioxidant beta-carotene, they reaped less of its benefits!
The cooking process can make many nutrients in certain veggies more accessible for your body to use. Not to mention, cooking fresh produce can also expand upon their taste and make them easier to digest too. Of course preparation should be healthy too – stick to healthy plant fats and steaming as much as possible!
Six vegetables that are healthier cooked
Ok, technically a fruit but, let’s be honest, we all think of it as more of a vegetable!
A 2002 study found that cooked tomatoes have significantly higher levels of the antioxidant lycopene than raw ones. This is most likely down to the fact that heat helps break down the thick tomato cell walls, where a number of important nutrients live. And as one of the most powerful antioxidants, you really want to get as much lycopene as possible! It has been linked to lowering the risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Even better is that lycopene is more effectively absorbed by your body when consumed with a healthy fat. Roast your tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil for great taste and a smart health move.
P.S. Cooking tomatoes does decrease the levels of vitamin C, so make sure you get your dose in other ways.
The best way to be eating spinach is steaming, research says. There’s four main reasons for this:
- Steaming helps retain spinach’s levels of folate and B vitamins. These important vitamins play a role in making DNA and reducing numerous types of cancer.
- When spinach is cooked calcium, magnesium and iron levels are higher.
- The leafy vegetable’s oxalic acid – which interferes with the body’s absorption of iron and calcium (both present in spinach!) – by up to 53%!
- You know how spinach shrinks when you cook it? This means you’re more likely to eat more of it. And of course, more spinach equals more nutrients!
In 2009 a study in the Journal of Food Science noted that celery is in fact one of the vegetables that are healthier cooked. But the magic is all in the cooking method. The antioxidant capacity of celery only increased with certain cooking methods including: microwaving, pressure-cooking, griddling, frying and baking. Boiling is the worst way to gain antioxidants from celery as around 14% can be lost in this process.
While we love to munch on a crunchy carrot crudite, science says we’ll have to switch that up if we want to get the most benefits. Beta-carotene is the substance responsible for the orange hue of carrots. It’s also carotenoid that the body converts to vitamin A. Why is this important? Vitamin A plays a key part in supporting bone growth, eyesight and immunity.
It’s now apparent that cooking your carrots boosts their beta-carotene levels, meaning a healthier you. But that’s not all. A 2009 study in the Journal of Food Science revealed that food prep has a major effect on the health benefits. Carrots cooked with their skins on can have up to triple the antioxidant power! As for how to cook them, it seems less water is best so opt for steaming, microwaving and roasting.
We never thought that frying veg would make them healthier! This is true for green beans whose nutritional rewards are higher when fried, baked, griddled or microwaved. Beans prepared in either of these ways have shown higher levels of antioxidants than raw and boiled.
Make sure to choose healthy fats and watch the amounts when you’re throwing them in the frying pan though! Vegetables that are healthier cooked still shouldn’t be slathered in butter. Though we know it’s tempting!
We all know kale is one of the best dark leafy green veggies out there, however it can be a little tough to chew on for many. Luckily Harvard School of Public Health have noted that raw kale contains isothiocyanates – a substance that prevents the body from using iodine. Iodine is needed by our thyroid to help regulate metabolism. When could though, this effect is deactivated.
Harvard School of Public Health recommend lightly steaming your kale, deactivating the isothiocyanates but avoiding any antioxidant and nutrient loss.
Your body is always communicating with you. How do you know what it’s saying?