For most people, the goal is just to eat more vegetables any way they can. If you’re a bit more advanced, though, you might be wondering whether it’s better for your health and well-being to eat your vegetables cooked or raw.
The short answer is…both! Some vegetables are more nutritious when eaten raw, and others offer more benefits when they’re cooked.
Learn more about these benefits and which vegetables you should eat raw or cooked below.
Benefits of Cooked Vegetables
There are plenty of reasons to incorporate roasted, steamed, sauteed, and grilled vegetables into your meals and snacks. Here are some of the top benefits cooked veggies offer:
Some people find that it’s easier for their bodies to digest cooked vegetables compared to raw ones -- likely because cooking helps to break down some of the fibers in raw vegetables. This observation is especially common among people who have digestive health problems like irritable bowel syndrome.
Easier Nutrient Absorption
In some cases, cooked vegetables taste better than raw ones. For those who struggle to eat enough vegetables because they don’t like the taste, cooking with a bit of butter or oil and a mixture of seasonings can improve the flavor and encourage them to eat more.
Benefits of Raw Vegetables
While cooked vegetables come with certain health benefits, that doesn’t mean you should eliminate raw vegetables from your diet altogether. The following are some of the advantages unique to raw veggies:
Increase Absorption of Different Nutrients
Some nutrients are better absorbed after the food has been cooked. However, the opposite is true for others, such as sulfur.
Easier to Eat
Raw vegetables can also be more convenient and easier to eat than cooked ones. You might not have time to cook carrots and cherry tomatoes for your meals, but you can throw some in a meal prep container and enjoy them as a healthy snack dipped in hummus.
Reduced Carbon Footprint
Eating vegetables raw instead of cooked can also help you reduce your carbon footprint. Because you’re not using energy to roast, sautee, or steam your vegetables, you’re minimizing the total amount you consume each day.
Vegetables to Eat Cooked
Both raw and cooked vegetables belong to a healthy diet. From a nutrient-absorption and digestion perspective, here are some of the best vegetables to cook before consuming:
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes contain lycopene, which is easier to digest cooked than raw.
- Asparagus: Cooking can also increase the antioxidant properties of asparagus.
- Spinach: It’s easier to absorb the minerals in spinach, such as iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium, after it’s been cooked.
- Celery: Celery’s antioxidant activity increases when it’s cooked -- primarily when it’s microwaved, pressure cooked, roasted, or sauteed.
- Carrots: Cooked carrots are higher in beta carotene (which the body converts to vitamin A) than raw ones.
- Green beans: Cooked green beans contain more antioxidants and greater cholesterol-lowering potential.
- Kale: Raw kale contains compounds called isothiocyanates, which block the body from using iodine to support thyroid health. Cooking kale deactivates the enzymes that cause this effect.
- Eggplant: Different cooking methods produce different benefits when it comes to eggplant. For example, steaming eggplant allows for easier binding with bile acids, which helps the liver break down cholesterol. On the other hand, grilling eggplant helps with the preservation of chlorogenic acid, which improves blood sugar balance.
Healthiest Cooking Methods
You know the benefits of cooking the vegetables listed above, but do you know the best ways to cook them? Here are some methods to try:
Most nutrition experts agree that steaming is the most effective way to cook your vegetables if nutrient preservation is your primary goal. Steaming helps prevent water-soluble nutrients from breaking down and makes certain vegetables, such as carrots, easier to digest.
Sauteeing and stir-frying with a small amount of oil is another good option.
Because you’re not cooking the vegetables for very long, you’re minimizing the number of nutrients that get broken down. However, you’re also adding some extra flavor, which can make your vegetables more palatable and increase your chances of eating more of them.
Roasting involves cooking vegetables (and other foods) for extended periods in an oven (usually at temperatures around 300-400 degrees or higher).
Research shows that roasting does not decrease concentrations of most vitamins and minerals despite the prolonged cooking time. The only exception is B vitamins, so if you’re trying to increase your intake of those, specifically, you may want to stick to steaming or sauteeing.
Vegetables to Eat Raw
If you like to snack on raw vegetables or make fresh salads for lunch, these raw vegetables will provide the most nutritional bang for your buck:
- Broccoli: Raw broccoli contains more sulforaphane (up to three times more) than cooked. Sulforaphane is a cancer-fighting nutrient.
- Cabbage: Raw cabbage contains an enzyme called myrosinase, which has cancer-preventing properties.
- Onions: Raw onions contain anti-platelet agents, which support heart health and reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Garlic: Raw garlic contains sulfur compounds, which have cancer-fighting properties.
Meet Your Vegetable Needs Easily with Nature’s Sustenance
If you’ve been confused about whether you should eat vegetables raw or cooked, the good news is that you don’t have to choose one option. The answer varies depending on the types of vegetables you want to eat and the specific health benefits you want to enjoy.
Use the guidelines discussed above to get the most nutrients from your vegetables, either by cooking them or eating them raw.
Do you want to skip the guessing and get a healthy dose of fruits, vegetables, and greens in just four capsules? If so, Nature’s Sustenance is for you.
This supplement is made with a combination of over 20 fruits, vegetables, and greens chosen with your health and well-being in mind.