So which is healthier?? We've done some investigating and come to a conclusion...
You've probably been told that raw veggies contain more nutrients than cooked veggies because the cooking process can reduce or destroy nutrient content.
But you may have also heard that cooked veggies are better because other nutrients are enhanced and the fibre has been partially broken down, therefore better for digestion and improved nutrient absorption.
It is a tough one to answer as it depends on the vegetables we are talking about since cooking powers up the nutrients in some vegetables—and does the exact opposite in others.
While many vegetables are easier on digestion and offer a host of benefits in their cooked state, consuming some veggies raw is also important to ensure sure you’re getting a variety of nutrients that may be sensitive to heat.
Water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B group vitamins are often lost during these cooking processes and minerals like potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc can be reduced by up to 60 to 70 percent! On the other hand the cooking process for some veggies makes it easier for our bodies to benefit from some of their protective antioxidants and beta-carotene, which we convert to vitamin A. These heat friendly nutrients can help protect our cells from environmental damage and certain cancers.
What are the vegetables to cook?
Carrots - cooked carrots have more beta carotene, an antioxidant that can be converted to vitamin A
Tomatoes - cooking will help increase the cancer-fighting carotenoid, lycopene
Spinach - cooking helps to absorb more calcium, ion and magnesium.
Mushrooms - heating mushrooms enhances potassium.
Asparagus - steaming helps trigger its cancer-fighting potential.
Pumpkin/sweet potato - like carrots, both are rich in beta-carotene, which is much easier to absorb once it has been heated.
What are the vegetables to eat raw?
Broccoli - heating deactivates myrosinase, an enzyme in broccoli that helps cleanse the liver of carcinogens.
Capsicum - cooking diminishes vitamin C content.
Garlic - heat reduces the amount of health-promoting allicin, it's best to add garlic as you finish cooking.
Cauliflower - during cooking much folate and vitamin C can be lost.
Beetroot - heating will cause a loss of more than 25% folate.
While many of us would usually consume the above veggies cooked, the cooking method used can impact the nutritional content greatly as well. To avoid losing water-soluble vitamins like the vitamin B group as well as vitamin C you should choose cooking methods which use the minimal amounts of water, such as lightly steaming or roasting.
At the end of the day; so long as you're eating 5+ serves of vegetables a day, you should be consuming enough nutrients from these to not stress too much about which is best.
However, my suggestion would be to aim to have a combination of both cooked and raw each day. There are advantages for cooking vegetables and for eating them raw. Just avoid cooking them too much, remembering that steaming is the best cooking method to retain nutrients.
Fill you plate with a variety of vegetables and colours. Choosing different coloured vegetables means you’ll be getting a wider variety of beneficial nutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Including vegetables into your daily meals is a key part of going Low Carb Healthy Fat and doing it well!