Many people assume veggies are always healthier raw; that chopping, slicing, dicing or grating them after they’ve been washed is all they need to work their nutritional magic, but that’s not always the case. In some instances, cooking releases nutrients that aren’t available from vegetables if you eat them straight from the farmers market or supermarket.
From beets (think cooked) to tomatoes (either raw or cooked), find out how to get the most nutrients from these nine vegetables.
Raw or Cooked? Cooked. Low in calories and high in nutrients, cooked beets reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Benefits: Naturally occurring compounds in beets improve blood flow, help keep arteries healthy and reduce LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ kind). Beets also provide an impressive helping of fiber (or roughage) to help lower blood pressure and keep you feeling full longer. A bonus: Some research has found that drinking beet juice before you exercise increases endurance.
Tip: To avoid spatters of red juice everywhere when cooking beets, wear disposable gloves and an apron before you start to prep, and cover your cutting board with parchment paper before you begin slicing.
Raw or Cooked? Both. Raw carrots can help lower blood pressure, and cooked carrots support a healthy immune system.
Benefits: Both raw and cooked, carrots help keep you healthy. Raw carrots are rich in fiber, which helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and cooked carrots release carotenoids, compounds the body converts to vitamin A to help ward off infections and support a healthy immune system, notes Andres Ardisson Korat, a scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University.
Tip: If you plan to serve cooked carrots, the best way to preserve their nutrients is to steam them, which minimizes cooking time and maximizes nutrient content.
Raw or cooked? Both. Cauliflower contains a variety of cancer-fighting compounds that are released when chopped, but some people find that raw cauliflower causes indigestion. Steaming it solves that problem.
Benefits: This creamy-white vegetable is high in Vitamins C and K and provides a good amount of folate (vitamin B-9), which is important in the formation of red blood cells. Folate also helps to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, it helps prevent macular degeneration, an eye disorder that affects vision.
Tip: The nutrients present in cauliflower are not easily destroyed by heat or prone to leaching into cooking water, but it’s still best to steam cauliflower to lock in nutrients and flavor.