To Cook or Not to Cook

October 23, 2018 in Health, Nutrition by Joyce Bunderson

The season for lots of refreshing cool salads has come to an end for this year. I don’t mean that we won’t have more salads this year; I just mean that if we live in the northern hemisphere, we may more frequently be looking for food that will warm us up. Should we be too worried that not eating our vegetables raw will prevent us from optimizing our nutrients? The surprising answer is that sometimes, cooked vegetables are more nourishing than raw. But let’s keep in mind the first imperative of good nutrition is to eat a variety of vegetables prepared in a variety of ways. It’s really hard to go wrong when eating vegetables.

Cooked leafy greens – You absorb more of the iron and calcium in cooked greens than raw. Some greens (spinach, Swiss chard, Kale, for example) have oxalic acid, which blocks the absorption of much of the iron and calcium. But cooking can decrease the oxalic acid by 40 percent on average. So if, like me, you enjoy kale, spinach and Swiss chard, in your minestrone soup, no worries about the loss of nutrients.

Tomatoes are another great example of the benefits of cooked vegetables (Or if you want to call tomatoes fruit, that’s great too.) Anyway, cooking tomatoes increases the levels of absorbable lycopene by about 62 percent, which has been linked to lower rates of cancer and heart disease. Yes, it’s true heating reduces the vitamin C; but you will still get some. I just read an article from []. It’s about 50 recipes that start with a can of whole tomatoes. Of course, if you’re still trying to use the last of your harvested tomatoes, you can cook them and substitute for the canned ones.

Mushrooms are fungi and not vegetables, but they’re commonly eaten as a vegetable. When you cook mushrooms there is a dramatic increase in available vitamins and minerals. Cooked mushrooms provide that wonderful umami flavor which is so nice in soul-warming soups and stews.

Carrots are, of course, great raw or cooked. If you add carrots to your chicken soup (or any other soup for that matter) the carrots provide about 14 percent more of their cancer-fighting carotennoids.

There aren’t any bad vegetables; and cooked or raw, you can’t go wrong in adding them to your regular eating plan. Don’t worry if soup season is here and you love a nice hot bowl of vegetable soup.