By now, most people are familiar with the golden rule of vegetable consumption: five a day.
Although, when it comes to getting the most out of those veggies, many are still stumped. Boil, steam, bake, fry or dry? The options are limitless, but the nutritional differences can be profound.
Is raw always best?
Most nutritional scientists will agree that eating vegetables raw is the most efficient way to preserve vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients, but is raw always best? It appears the answer is no.
A study published last year in the British Journal of Medicine followed 198 subjects who adhered to a strict raw food diet and found that the participants had low levels of lycopene, an important cancer-fighting antioxidant found in tomatoes, guava, watermelon and red bell peppers.
Heat. Cooking tomatoes for 30 minutes or more has been shown to significantly increase the amount of lycopene compared to raw tomatoes, because the heat breaks down the tomato’s thick cell wall, facilitating the release of this important compound.
However, heating isn’t always the solution.
On one hand, cooking veggies such as carrots can increase levels of beta-carotene, a carotenoid that is converted by the body to vitamin A, which plays an important role in vision, reproduction, bone growth and regulating the immune system.
On the other hand, canned carrots or peas have been shown to lose up to 95% of their vitamin C from cooking. What’s more, delicate veggies such as spinach break down in no time at all, even at low temperatures.