Raw or cooked:
Which vegetables are healthier?

Cooking increases nutrient content in some cases and does the exact opposite in others

We know that vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre that help sustain our health. But, are they better eaten raw or cooked?

Cooking destroys many micro-organisms that cause food-borne illnesses. Cooking vegetables also breaks down plant cell walls which makes it easier for the body to absorb certain nutrients.

However, water-soluble vitamins like vitamin B and C are often lost in the cooking process. Minerals like potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc may be reduced by up to 60-70% by cooking. If the colour of a vegetable fades while cooking it is a sign that nutrients are being destroyed.

Know your vegetable

Whether to cook or not to cook vegetables also depends on the vegetables involved and the nutrients they contain. Cooking increases the nutrient content in some cases and does the exact opposite in others.

Best eaten raw

Garlic: It contains allicin, having antibiotic, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Allicin is heat sensitive, so it’s best to add garlic just before you finish cooking the vegetable.

Cucumber: Enjoy it uncooked. It contains three types of phytonutrients that provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits.

Onions: They should be sliced and eaten raw as cooking them reduces the content of allicin.

Beetroot: Eat it raw as the vegetable loses more than 25% of the folate it contains when cooked.

Broccoli: Often hailed as a superfood, it contains sulforaphane which helps fight cancer. Heating damages myrosinase, an enzyme in broccoli which is vital for the formation of sulforaphane.

Best eaten cooked

Tomatoes: The amount of lycopene increases when tomatoes are cooked but vitamin C content decreases. Lycopene is associated with reduced incidence of heart disease and cancer.

Carrots: Cooked carrots have more beta carotene – an antioxidant that can be converted to vitamin A and improves bone, eye and reproductive health.

Spinach: Eating it cooked ensures better absorption of calcium, iron and magnesium. However, raw spinach is rich in potassium, vitamins A and C, folate and lutein.

Cabbage: Best eaten cooked. Do not discard the darkest outer leaves that are full of vitamin C, beta carotene and lutein. Cabbage also contains calcium, folate and isothiocyanates – believed to prevent cancer.

Winter squash: Squash is better eaten cooked. The bright orange flesh of the vegetable is high in vitamin A and excellent for lung health.

How to preserve vitamins in vegetables

Delhi-based clinical nutritionist Ishi Khosla says:

Avoid cutting or trimming vegetables into very small pieces.

Preserve outer leaves of lettuce and other greens if they are not damaged or decayed

Use minimum amount of water or fat when you steam, microwave or saute vegetables.

Use a pressure cooker to shorten the cooking time

Do not add baking soda to vegetables while cooking to enhance green colour

Daily Mail,;;;

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