Is it better to eat your veggies raw or cooked?
With growing consumer interest in healthy eating, we are seeing a concerning increase of non-qualified health advice on social media. ‘Extremism’ in so called healthy eating is leading to diet fads and nutritional deficiencies as we see more and more people cut out complete food groups such as dairy, wholegrains, legumes and even fruit. The replacement of these food groups can lead to an overdose of the same foods which can lead to nutrient imbalances and food sensitivities.
Before you jump on the latest health craze bandwagon be sure to do your own research and be mindful of some of the latest craziest health fads out there.
Raw food diet
Advocates of a raw food only diet claim that raw food is better for you as the heat from cooking destroys vital nutrients. Whilst overcooking vegetables can certainly diminish the nutrient content and the heat from cooking can destroy natural enzymes present in food, eating all your food raw is not always a healthier option.
Studies show that the cooking process breaks helps to break down the tougher outer surface and cellular structures of many vegetables making them easier to digest and the nutrients easy to absorb. Many vegetables are better eaten lightly cooked such as tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms spinach and kale as their nutrient content becomes more bio available (easier to absorb).
When tomatoes are cooked for example their Lycopene content increases. Lycopene is a red pigment found predominantly in tomatoes and other red fruits such as watermelon, pink guava, red capsicum and papaya. Harvard Medical School studies have linked high intake of lycopene with a lower risk of cancer and heart attacks.
Eating cooked carrots increases their antioxidant content. Carrots are particularly rich in carotenoids, particularly beta carotene a powerful antioxidant that protects our cells from cell damage.
Mushrooms are also better eaten cooked. Raw mushrooms are hard to digest and they contain a number of potential toxic substances, such as agaritine, a derivative of glutamic acid. Raw mushrooms also may contain harmful bacteria on their skins. Cooking mushrooms destroys the harmful compounds and allows the nutrients such as protein, B vitamins, and minerals to be more bio available.
It would therefore seem that some vegetables are actually better for us when they are lightly cooked as the heat can deactivate certain harmful compounds. For example cooking cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower may also help to deactivate harmful thyroid disruptive compounds that they contain. Adding raw greens such as kale to smoothies every day or eating plates of raw broccoli may affect the thyroid gland and should be avoided particularly by those with underactive thyroid conditions. Cooking cruciferous vegetables also increases compounds called indoles which are thought to help have an anti-cancer affect in the body by helping to clear excess oestrogen from the body.
This doesn’t mean that raw vegetables are not good for us but the message is variety is the key. Including fresh fruits and vegetables daily in your diet (both raw or cooked) is an important step towards good health.
VERONICA DEWANTO , XIANZHONG WU ,KAFUI K. ADOM , AND RUI HAI LIU, THERMAL PROCESSING ENHANCES THE NUTRITIONAL VALUE OF TOMATOES BY INCREASING TOTAL ANTIOXIDANT ACTIVITY DEPARTMENT OF FOOD SCIENCE AND INSTITUTE OF COMPARATIVE AND ENVIRONMENTAL TOXICOLOGY, Stocking Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853