[TV segment #0002 Producer: Karen Owoc
With the advent of the raw food culture, is it healthier to eat your vegetables raw rather than cooked? Take a look…
Expanded transcript… I’m often asked if it’s healthier to eat vegetables raw. Some people think cooking destroys valuable enzymes, vitamins and minerals. But cooking has a purpose. It breaks down the insoluble fiber which softens the vegetables so they’re edible. And as it turns out, raw vegetables are not always healthier than cooked. Here’s why….
The Upside of Cooked
According to a study, people who followed a strict raw food diet had low levels of the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is a bright red pigment found largely in tomatoes. Lycopene can also be found in other red fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, red bell peppers, watermelon, and papaya. Diets rich in tomatoes have been shown to lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, and macular degeneration which causes blindness.
Cooking lycopene-rich vegetables actually increases their lycopene content. Why is this? The heat breaks down the plants’ thick cell walls. This releases some of the nutrients that are bound to these surfaces.
In carrots, cooking increases their beta-carotene levels. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which helps to keep your eyes, bones, skin and immune system healthy. Another study concluded that cooking increased the antioxidant content in carrots, zucchini and broccoli. This is probably due to the softening.
When cooked, some vegetables from the cabbage family, also known as cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts, form a plant-based compound called indole (IN-dole). According to research, indole helps kill precancerous cells before they become malignant.
And when it comes to cooking vegetables, steaming is best as it preserves antioxidants and water-soluble vitamins.
The Upside of Raw
Raw vegetables retain their vitamin C content. However, there are more fruits and vegetables that contain vitamin C than lycopene, such as pineapple, oranges, and kiwi, so eating cooked tomatoes is well-worth the partial loss of the C.
Also, cruciferous vegetables, which are so healthy when cooked, contain sulfur-containing compounds called sulforaphanes (sul·fo·RAF·anes). Sulforaphanes may help prevent cancer but are available in the vegetable’s raw state. Cooking, especially boiling and microwaving these vegetables at high power, decreases the bioavailability of sulforaphanes and are best if you eat them raw.
Another study found that polyphenols, a group of antioxidant chemicals found in raw carrots, are completely lost in the cooking process. While on the other hand (as mentioned above), the antioxidants in carrots are gained and the vitamin A levels are increased when cooked.)
The bottom line is…some veggies are best if you eat them raw while at the same time, they’re also best if you eat them cooked. Eating a diet that includes a combination of both raw and cooked is healthiest. Experiment with preparing and serving them in new ways because if they taste good to you, you’ll eat more of them!
Fit Tip: Include 1 ½ tablespoons of lycopene-rich tomato sauce in your daily diet. That’s just 10 Tbsp. a week or just over ½ cup of sauce on your pasta. Tomato sauces and pastes are concentrated forms of tomatoes and contain lots of lycopene!