Yearning for Simple Solutions

March 26, 2019 in Cooking & Baking Hints, Health by Joyce Bunderson

Sometimes I think, “It would be so nice to have a simple answer to a simple question.” If someone asks me the seemingly simple question, “Are vegetables better cooked or raw?” I’d like to be able to just say one or the other. But the fact is that the answer is not simple. Now having said that, let me share a bit of information and strive to decomplicate it a bit.

We all know that vegetables are a powerhouse among foods; they not only provide fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals; they provide thousands of phytonutrients (plant nutrients). If you’re wanting to glean the most from your vegetable intake, then you may ask the above question – cooked or not?

Here’s the snag: Cooking reduces the levels of some nutrients; for example, the water-soluble vitamin C, the B vitamins and certain of the phytonutrients. But at the very same time, as you’re decreasing those nutrients by cooking, you’re increasing the availability of carotenoids, like beta carotene and lycopene.

Some nutrients will be lost with any cooking method, but striving not to cook too long or at too high a heat, or in too much water, can protect more of the water-soluble nutrients. Steaming is one of the best ways to cook veggies because it preserves the nutrients by avoiding the leaching of the water-soluble nutrients and limits the exposure to too much heat. If you’re making soup or sauces this is not such a worry; because you consume the broth or sauce with the food, you’re not just enriching the drain. When you’re microwaving, blanching, sautéing, roasting, or steaming, you’re not using so much water and conserving the water-soluble nutrients. If you’re boiling vegetables, one way to protect the nutrients, is to save the liquid and use it to make broths or sauces that will be consumed.

As I mentioned above, if you eat all your vegetables raw, you will limit the amount of some nutrients, like the over 600 carotenoids that exist naturally in nature. Some vegetables that are great sources for carotenoids are: tomatoes, zucchini, asparagus, cabbage, spinach, carrots, broccoli, peppers and mushrooms. These vegetables definitely supply more carotenoids when consumed cooked.

In my mind, the very most important aspect of vegetable consumption is to do just that, consume them – eat them either raw or cooked. If you’re doing both, you’ll end up getting a variety of nutrients. If you enjoy them more, cooked or more raw – do that. Getting more into your body is far more important than worrying about whether a too-small amount is cooked or uncooked.

Cooked or raw? Not an easy answer, but my advice is to pay the most attention to figuring out how to eat plenty of them.