To cook your veggies or not to cook your veggies: that is the question. At some point, many of us have altered our diets in one way or another. With so many plant-based meal plans circulating the web, one would be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t dabbled in some sort of vegan or veggie-focused diet, and even if they did find one, that person had probably considered trying it out at some point.
Within the plant-based world, there tends to be a few consistent debates, but we will focus on the raw vs. cooked veggie discussion in this blog post. Often, raw vegetables seem to win the award of most efficient way of meeting our essential nutrients in full. But are they really that much better than cooked vegetables? Let’s break this down.
Taking it to extremes.
Fad diets have been coming in and out of mainstream media since, well, forever. And It can’t be a controversial topic unless you have your ‘in your face’ die-hard advocates right? From Freelee the Banana girl to Fully Raw Kristina, there have been many radical plant-based influencers advocating for a majority raw diet, with some even preaching that going 100% raw is the big secret to having optimal health and a longer, more enjoyable life. Although these diets may work for them, the reality is, good health isn’t that simple or universal.
Raw veggie fans point to the fact that cooking or applying any sort of heat to your vegetables can significantly decrease their nutritional value, and for this reason, eating raw is healthier.
It is true that when we boil or cook our veggies in high temperatures or in water, we can lose some nutrients. Water-soluble vitamins such as C and B can be lost or their amounts significantly decreased during these cooking processes, and minerals like potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc may be reduced by close to 60 percent. Glucosinolate, the sulfur-containing nutrient in broccoli, is also decreased when the vegetable is boiled. The amount of nutrients lost during cooking depends on many factors, including how we prepare the veggies and the method and length of time we cook them for. Although this decrease in nutrients is good to keep in mind, it does not mean that exclusively eating raw veggies is necessarily the pinnacle of health.
We can actually “unlock” nutrients in some foods just by cooking them! For example, compared to raw carrots, cooked carrots have more beta carotene. This is an antioxidant that can be converted to vitamin A and improves bone, eye, and reproductive health. Another example is lycopene in tomatoes. Lycopene is a carotenoid that has been associated with reduced incidence of heart disease and cancer, and it increases when tomatoes are cooked.
Digestion, digestion, digestion.
The benefits of eating a diet chalked full of raw veggies of all different colours is plentiful, but many people find themselves getting gas, bloating, or loose stool when trying to digest raw produce.
Aside from the fact that cooked vegetables are often tastier and can be better incorporated into most meals, one of the main reasons we cook our vegetables is for easier digestion—which, by the way, is super important! There are a few factors that make digestion more difficult when it comes to raw vegetables; two major components being a rigid cell wall and a specific fiber called cellulose. Both of which are easier on your body after being exposed to heat. When it comes to eating food, a lot of the time we focus on what a certain superfood can do for us nutritionally in the long run, but it is also important to consider how these foods make us feel right after we’ve finished eating, both physically and mentally. For example, if eating raw cauliflower just doesn’t excite your taste buds and gives you digestive problems, we promise that roasting your vegetables and adding some spices is still beneficial to your health. If eating tasty, cooked vegetables makes you happy, don’t feel guilty about missing out on some of those nutrients. The best way to go about it is to prepare your veggies in a way that will make you want to eat them, and incorporate some raw veggies (like a salad!) into your diet whenever possible.
Sources: https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/raw-vegetables-vs-cooked-vegetables-5344.html https://www.nutribullet.com/blog/why-do-vegetables-cause-me-so-much-gastrointestinal-distress/#:~:text=When%20you%20cook%20vegetables%2C%20you,likely%20easier%20on%20your%20body. https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-raw-cooked-veggie