In recent years we seem to have been bombarded with messages about how raw food is great for us.
There are raw ‘cakes’, raw salad bars and smoothies are so raw they are ‘cold pressed’.
It is true that cooking can kill bacteria, break down hard-to-digest matter and remove some toxins. And, it can also break down certain vitamins and add carcinogens if you like your food blackened.
So which is best?
Tomatoes – cook
The lycopene in tomatoes has been found by studies to offer protection against certain types of cancer, heart disease, and even UV rays. It’s more available to our bodies when tomatoes are cooked. Tomatoes also contain beta carotene and vitamin C. These nutrients are affected by heat but still remain in large enough quantities to make cooking still the best option.
Spinach – cook
When you eat spinach that has been heated, you will absorb higher levels of vitamins A and E, protein, fiber, zinc, thiamin, calcium, and iron. Important carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, also become more absorbable because cooking spinach breaks down the cellular walls. Raw spinach contains oxalic acid, which can interfere with the absorption of essential nutrients like calcium and iron amongst others.
Carrots – cook
While there’s nothing quite as like a crunchy carrot baton dipped in hummus, we are better eating them steamed. The heating process helps our bodies access the beta-carotene which gives them their gorgeous orange colour. Beta-carotene is converted by our bodies into vitamin A which we need for healthy skin and mucus membranes, our immune system, and good eye health.
Peppers – cook
The vitamin C content of your pepper will be reduced by cooking them. But other antioxidants like carotenoids which is great for your skin, go up. How you cook them is key – boiling them will lose almost all their nutrients and antioxidants. But stir-frying and roasting preserves these benefits brilliantly.
Nuts – raw
While the roasted kind taste lovely the cooking process erodes their nutritional benefits. Iron and magnesium levels are both particularly affected.
Blueberries – raw
Yes they are delish cooked into muffins or pancakes, but if you want to make the most of blueberries you need to eat them as nature intended. Research in the Journal of Food Science found that cooking blueberries alters the polyphenol levels – the precious antioxidants they contain more than other fruits.
Broccoli – raw
Most people might have some cooked broccoli in a stir fry. But consider having it in a salad. If you eat raw broccoli, you’ll get higher levels of an enzyme called myrosinase. This has been found by studies to help our bodies to prevent a number of diseases. It can also fight a common bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers. Myrosinase is destroyed with heat. Boiling broccoli is the worst thing you can do to it as up to 60% of the nutrients are lost in the process.
Cauliflower – raw
Most people think the green cruciferous vegetables are better for you than white cauliflower. But this cruciferous wonder is a fantastic source of antioxidants. The purple version is even better if you can find any. But you are best of eating cauli raw as it will retain more of it’s nutrients including sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that has also been shown to kill cancer stem cells, improve blood pressure and kidney function.
Fresh raw cauliflower has 30 percent more protein and a range of antioxidants which are destroyed in the heat including vitamin C – you may be surprised to learn that one serving of cauliflower contains 77 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C!
It’s also a good protein, B vitamins, fibre, potassium, and manganese.