Making a decision to cook or not to cook has been a dilemma for many of us when eating vegetables. Some may go about endorsing raw vegetables while some preach on the advantages of cooked vegetables. So what is the best way to eat vegetables? Raw or cooked?
Well, the best way to consume your vegetables is based on the “bioavailability” (the degree to which nutrients can be absorbed by your body) of each of its nutrients.
Some vegetables include nutrients that are better absorbed when cooked, chopped, or crushed, and/or consumed with other foods. On the other hand, some nutrients are easily absorbable when eaten raw. So, if your aim is to get the most nutrients out of your vegetables, the way you consume them is crucial.
Here are some tips that might help you.
1. Know which veggies are healthier when consumed raw
Raw vegetables are not necessarily healthier than cooked ones. Cooking vegetables may reduce the absorption of some nutrients, yet it also increases the absorption of others. Also, it may kill bacteria and eliminate certain hazardous chemicals. So, knowing which vegetables are healthier to eat raw always a smart idea.
Vegetables with water-soluble and heat-sensitive nutrients are the best veggies to eat raw. This is due to the fact that the heat from cooking degrades vitamins B1, B5, folate, and C in the vegetables. Therefore greens such as:
- peas, beet greens, and Brussels sprouts (sources of vitamin B1),
- broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and avocado (sources of vitamin B5),
- spinach, turnip greens, broccoli (sources of folate), and
- bell peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts (sources of vitamin C)
are best eaten raw to maximize the nutritional absorption into the body.
2. Opt for light-cooked vegetables
Cooked veggies have nutrients that are easier to digest and absorb. The softened fibres of cooked veggies promote the release of vitamins E and K, as well as higher mineral absorption. Most nutrients are maintained in lightly cooked veggies, whereas the heat breaks down the toxic components of the nutrients in your vegetables. Steaming and sautéing are two of the greatest methods to consume light cooked veggies.
Steaming can be done in two ways:
- Low pressure – Cooked using steam, either directly (in a steamer/pan of hot water) or indirectly (between two plates over a pan of boiling water).
- High-pressure cooking — Prepared with specialized equipment that prevents steam from escaping, resulting in a faster cooking time.
BENEFITS OF CONSUMING STEAMED VEGETABLES
- Preserves nutritional value: Steam cooking helps preserve the fibre, color, texture, and flavor of veggies. It also aids in the preservation of water-soluble B and C vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc so that key minerals can be obtained from cooked vegetables. 90% of the antioxidants in fresh veggies are preserved when steamed.
- No usage of oil: Because steam cooking does not require oil, we may enjoy a nutritious dinner.
- Retains cancer-fighting components: Many vegetables like broccoli cauliflower and cabbage contain anti-cancer compounds known as glucosinolates, which are destroyed when over-cooked. By steaming at a low temperature with a small amount of water, their miraculous compounds are retained.
- Lowers cholesterol: When steam is used to cook food like chicken and fish, it eliminates all of the fat. This is different from traditional cooking methods like grilling, baking, or frying which cooks the fat into the meat. By removing the fat through steaming, the meat becomes reduced in calories and cholesterol.
EXAMPLES OF VEGETABLES THAT ARE BEST CONSUMED STEAMED
- Green beans
- Baby bok choy
Sautéing is a cooking technique derived from the French verb sauté, which means “to jump”. As the name suggests, ingredients must be in constant motion in the pan to ‘jump around’. This guarantees that the meal cooks uniformly while also forcing moisture out due to the greater temperature.
BENEFITS OF CONSUMING SAUTÉED VEGETABLES
Breaks down harmful components: Spinach is one of the vegetables that is high in oxalates. It’s not a good idea to eat these vegetables raw since too much oxalic acid in the urine can encourage stone formation in the urinary tract. The heat from sautéing spinach helps to break down the oxalate component, making it safer to ingest.
Improve absorption: Vitamins A and E, protein, fibre, zinc, thiamin, calcium, and iron, as well as vital beta carotenes for healthy immune systems and skin, are all increased in sautéed spinach.
Healthier alternative to frying: Only a small amount of fat (like oils and butter)is required for sautéing. As a result, it is generally healthier than frying.
EXAMPLES OF VEGETABLES THAT CAN BE CONSUMED SAUTÉED
- Sweet potatoes
3. Pair with complementary foods to maximize absorption
Putting the right foods together doesn’t just taste awesome, it also helps you absorb all nutrients in the foods you do eat.
For example, food high in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K should be combined with dietary fats to assist dissolve the vitamins and prepare them for absorption.
Therefore, vegetables like:
- carrots, and squash (vitamin A),
- mushrooms (vitamin D),
- spinach, Swiss chard, and asparagus (vitamin E), and
- kale, spinach, and broccoli (vitamin K)
could all benefit from 1-2 thumb-sized amounts of healthy fats such as
- mixed nuts,
- olive oil,
- coconut oil and
From the information above, we can deduce that raw and cooked vegetables come with their own set of benefits. Depending on whether they’re raw or cooked, several veggies provide different vitamins. For example, spinach contains vitamin C in its raw form and more vitamin A in its cooked version.
Therefore, instead of discussing which way is better than the other (raw vs. cooked), it is always wise to include a combination of cooked and raw vegetables in your diet to reap the benefits of both worlds.
We hope you gained some knowledge from our post today. Have a great day!