It is true that some vegetables lose their vitamins and nutritious value by cooking - and are best eaten raw. These, surprisingly, include Broccoli, Sprouts, Cabbage, Kale and Cauliflower.
But others actually need cooking to be able to release their nutrients, making them easier to absorb. So how can we make the best use of our vegetables.
Well, we will take a look at a few for you, either eaten raw or cooked, but why not have a bit of research yourself on your favourites, if we do not cover them.
You can grill, bake, or just open a can of tomatoes and heat them up or add them to various dishes. Cooking helps to break down the cell walls so that your body can digest and absorb the red, antioxidant, pigment - Lycopene. It has been shown to protect your body against oxidative stress and offer some protection from certain environmental toxins and chronic diseases.
There have been various studies around the health benefits of Lycopene. In one, individuals with metabolic disease who had the highest blood lycopene levels had up to a 39% lower risk of dying prematurely.
In another study, diets rich in this nutrient were linked to a 25% lower risk of heart disease, and a 31% lower risk of stroke.
It is also reported that they can help with smoother skin.
If mushrooms are allowed to grow in natural sunlight, it has been reported that the ultraviolet rays will convert Vitamin D from inactive to active. Apparently, by then eating them. a study in the US found it increased Vitamin D in the blood, and was as effective as taking a supplement of this bone-building nutrient.
Mushrooms are also rich in the B Vitamins; Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (a form of B3), and Pantothenic Acid (B5). The combination helps protect heart health. Riboflavin is great for red blood cells. Niacin is good for the digestive system and for healthy skin.
Raw mushrooms are almost indigestible because of their tough cell walls. It is much better to cook them.
If you want to get the maximum amount of Vitamin C from peppers - whether they be red, yellow, orange or green, then they are best eaten raw. Vitamin C is vital for quality collagen in our skin, as well as for a robust immune system. Just half a pepper can give you enough Vitamin C for the day.
Believe it or not, but all the different colour peppers are actually all the same type of pepper, just at different stages of ripeness. Green peppers are actually unripe (but fine to eat), red are fully ripe, with yellow and orange in between. As they ripen their taste and their health benefits change too.
They are all packed with vitamins and are low in calories. They are an excellent source of potassium, as well as contain a healthy dose of fibre, folate and iron.
The Carrot is a root vegetable, usually orange in colour, though purple, black, red, white and yellow varieties do exist (I have to admit I have only ever eaten the orange ones).
These can actually be eaten raw or cooked. However, experts say the best way is to mildly steam them - or lightly heat in water (not boil them to oblivion), and then serve them drizzled with a little oil. The same is for sweet potatoes (though they will probably take a little longer to soften). Cooking and serving carrots this way is shown to improve your body's ability to utilise the orange beta-carotene by up to 90%. Beta-carotene collects in your skin, providing a mild, year-round sun protection from the inside out.
Raw carrots are around 88% water, and are therefore very low in calories - and great if controlling your weight.
During the second world war, the allies claimed that pilots could see better at night due to eating carrots - this was a fake news item to put the enemy away from thinking about our radar systems. However, carrots are a good source of Vitamin A, which has been found to aid our sight, so maybe there was something in that anyway.
We talked about Kale in another blog entry recently when we discussed "superfoods". But spinach is another vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked, and is great for you. Uncooked, maybe served in salads, this preserves heat-sensitive B Vitamins, such as Folate, which can be reduced in cooking and are needed for healthy nerves.
Spinach, and all dark green leafy vegetables are also bursting with Vitamins E and K.
Spinach is low in carbohydrates but high in insoluble fibre. This type of fibre may benefit digestion.
Spinach contains several important plant compounds
- Lutein - linked to eye health
- Kaempferol - this antioxidant may decrease your risk of cancer and chronic disease
- Nitrates - it contains high amount of these, which may promote heart health
- Quercetin - this antioxidant may ward off infection and inflammation.
- Zeaxanthin - this can also improve eye health
We all know that we should have more vegetables in our diets. They are rich in nutrients that all help keep our metabolism going and us alive and healthy. It is up to us to ensure we include it daily in our diets, and that is even more important at a time of sedentary lifestyles, with takeaways more and more abundant. Such a simple change in our routine can have far-reaching outcomes. It's your choice.