Does Eating Cooked Veggies Kill the Nutrients?
Does Eating Cooked Veggies Kill the Nutrients?
The world is divided into two camps: the people that say cooking vegetables is murdering the nutrients, and the people that say that eating raw foods allows bacteria to grow.
This is a debate that has been raging for many years, and many people take sides so strongly that it can actually break up whole families. It is important to understand the truth behind both arguments, as that will make it possible for you to see what is the difference between cooked vegetables and vegetables that are eaten raw.
Raw vs. Cooked: The Raw Diet
Most of the proponents of the raw diet have the same arguments, the main argument being that food should be eaten in its natural state. The truth is that most vegetables are made to be eaten raw, and you can just pick a head of lettuce or a carrot straight from the ground and eat the thing raw. The nutrients are all 100% present in the raw vegetables, and they are excellent when eaten raw.
However, keep in mind that the raw diet does have some downsides, as there is the chance that dirt, germs, and bacteria will remain on the vegetables that you are putting in your mouth. Cooking vegetables can be a good idea to help kill off all the bacteria, but cooking vegetables the wrong way really can kill off many of the nutrients. For example, if you boil carrots in water, a lot of the nutrients from the carrots go into the water. When you throw the water away, many of the nutrients are thrown out with the water and thus you are eating carrots that have less nutrients than they should.
Raw vs. Cooked: Cooking Veggies
Remember, though, that man started cooking vegetables for the purpose of making them a bit easier for your digestive system, rather than making them harder to eat. If cooking vegetables were harder for your digestion, don’t you think that most people would stop cooking vegetables to give their digestive tracts a break?
For this reason, there are many vegetables that are easier to eat cooked, as they are easier on your digestive tract. Garlic, for example, is a vegetable that contains allicin, which is better when eaten raw. It also contains nutrients called diallyl sulfides, which are actually believed to be enhanced when you cook the garlic. These diallyl sulfides help to thin out your blood, meaning that the garlic is almost better cooked than raw.
It all depends on the method of preparation, really, so it is very important that you cook the vegetables the right way. For example, boiling vegetables submerged in water will actually leech out a lot of the nutrients that should be in the food, and thus you end up with vegetables that are fairly tasteless and contain a fraction of the nutrients that they would have had were they prepared a different way.
Any cooking that is done at high temperature will cause a reaction that may end up with the vegetables losing some of their nutrients. However, if you steam your vegetables, you will find that the steam actually traps the nutrients inside the vegetables. By steaming your veggies, you can enjoy a cooked vegetable that is both easier on your digestive system and that contains all the nutrients that you want from a vegetable. If you are boiling vegetables to make a stew, all the nutrients that have been boiled out of the water are still in the soup that you are putting in your mouth, so you end up with all the awesome nutrients anyways.
Raw vs. Cooked: What are Anti-Nutrients?
Many people that are in the raw foods camp forget about the anti-nutrients that are found in food. Anti-nutrients are basically the vegetable’s defense against its predators: the bugs, herbivores, etc. For example, a carrot automatically develops nutrients that will stop the rabbits from eating the part of the carrot that needs to survive in order to spread. Apples, for example, actually contain cyanide in the seeds, as that means the animals don’t eat the seeds and leave them on the ground – where they grow new plants.
All plants have some kind of anti-nutrients, but these anti-nutrients can be cooked out and thus are made safe. For example, soy contains a lot of anti-nutrients, but cooking say the right way makes it a safe and healthy choice to eat. Cooking may not get rid of all these anti-nutrients, but it will usually get rid of enough to make the food safe for human consumption. There is no real rule that says, “You have to cook your food to get rid of anti-nutrients,” but it may not be a bad idea to consider cooking the foods that have more anti-nutrients than others.
Raw vs. Cooked: Some are Better…
In the end, some foods are better cooked and some are better raw:
Raw cabbage can cause a very strong reaction in the digestive system, but cooking cabbage the right way can help to get rid of the chemical that causes gas to build up in your digestive system. The same is true for broccoli.
Tomatoes are great to eat raw, as they contain all kinds of vitamins and minerals. However, tomatoes contain lycopene – a powerful antioxidant – and the amount of lycopene is actually increased by as much as 35% when you cook the tomatoes.
Spinach contains lots of lutein, which is an antioxidant that can help keep your eyes strong. Cooked spinach contains more lutein than raw spinach. A cup of raw spinach also contains something like 90 milligrams of calcium, while a cup of cooked spinach has almost 250.
Carrots contain beta-carotene, which is a form of Vitamin A that improves your eyes, fights cancer, strengthens your heart, and protects your lungs. Cooking the carrots can actually increase the levels of this Vitamin by 30% or so, making it a much more powerful veggie when it is cooked.
Taste and personal preference usually win out in this argument, but it is important to know that cooking your veggies doesn’t always eliminate the important nutrients that you need.