To cook or not to cook?

We all know that eating lots of fruits and vegetables is part of a healthy, natural lifestyle.  But if we spend our time cooking them, it may cancel all the health benefits associated with it. The longer it cooks, and the higher the cooking temperature, the greater will be the loss of vitamins.

The key to get the maximum health benefits of eating vegetables is to avoid overcooking them, or even best, to eat them raw.  Whatever cooking method you might choose, the most important thing is to use only a tiny bit of water and to cook it as quickly as possible.  From all the cooking methods that doesn’t involve water, oven baked vegetables are some of the worst on a nutritional point of view, as they are cooked under high heat and for a long period of time.  Grilling methods are also among the worst, as it implies high heat and imparts some toxins (acrylamyde) to food.

Food preparation also plays an important role in keeping all the healthy stuff in.  As soon as the vegetables are cut, they start to loose beneficial elements through oxidation.  When possible, try to cut your fruits and vegetables just before using them, instead of preparing them in advance.  The best of all, if you have a garden, is to pick-up the vegetables directly on the plant, just before using them. This is the very best way to eat vegetables at their peak.

But while heat can destroy vitamins, cooking can however be beneficial for some foods.  Many antioxidants are boosted when heated.  Cooked tomatoes, as example, contain far more lycopene than uncooked ones, and heated cinnamon have more antioxidant power than raw.  Dark leafy greens also benefit of a little cooking, as heat will destroy a substance they contain that can slow down metabolism and thyroid activity.  The same thing goes with legumes: cooking destroys the toxin that forms in uncooked sprouted beans. Cooking also makes some food easier to digest. This is especially true for starchy food like root vegetables or squash.

To get the most of your fruits and veggies, the ideal is to eat most of it completely raw, with the exception of tomatoes, dark leafy greens, beans and starchy vegetables. When cooked, vegetables should ideally be lightly steamed or sautéed in 1tbsp of broth or grape seed oil.

Do you eat most of your vegetables completely raw? What are your favorite cooking methods?

4 thoughts on “To cook or not to cook?”

  1. I try to eat my veggies raw as much as possible…but prefer things like broccoli to be cooked. I try and follow what you said—sautee lightly!

    Thanks for the good tips!

  2. Hi Veronica..

    I am trying to incorporate more raw. I do believe that the enzymes are what we need.. But unfortunately not possible to do so always.. I try to stir fry and steam whenever possible.. Stir fry I read seals in the nutrients due to the high heat ans]d we are only searing as opposed to real cooking..

    But I don’t know if there’s any truth to that!!

  3. According to the researches I read, finding the healthiest cooking method is not something simple. Some cooking methods are better if we look at the antioxidant content, some others for the antioxidant availability, and different ones for the vitamins retention. And this varies a lot according to the antioxidant or vitamin in question and is also specific to each vegetable. Generally speaking, steaming is better than boiling, and stir-fry is better than oven-bake. Between stir-fry and steam, it really depends. The oil used for stir-fry plays also a role in the vitamin retention. Higher quality oils like extra virgin olive oil seems to better protect vegetables from vitamins loss than other oils. But in the end, it’s more how cooked through your vegetables are rather than the cooking method that will make the difference.

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