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Are Raw Vegetables Healthier Than Cooked Vegetables?

Jul 25, 2023Jul 25, 2023

Raw or cooked? Cooked. Nutrients are more easily absorbed from boiled sweet potatoes than from any other cooking method, but they can also be steamed, roasted or broiled.

Benefits: Sweet potatoes are incredibly rich in beta carotene, a plant-based compound that the body converts to vitamin A. This fat-soluble vitamin is important for normal vision. The orange spud’s store of vitamins plays a role in controlling blood pressure. Bonus: The potato skin’s fiber content helps promote a healthy digestive system.

Tip: It’s fine to eat the skin as long as it’s well-scrubbed. Potato skins pick up microbes from the soil they grow in, so they should be washed before cooking.

Raw or Cooked? Both. Cooked tomatoes help protect against heart disease, but heating tomatoes destroys vitamin C. Leaving them raw helps your immune system work properly.

Benefits: Raw and cooked tomatoes are both low in calories and fat, and rich in vitamins and minerals that help you stay healthy. Raw tomatoes offer vitamin C to keep your immune system in good shape, but heat destroys it. Cooked tomatoes help protect against heart disease. Eating a combination of raw (sliced) and cooked (roasted) at the same meal gives you the best of both worlds. Bonus: Tomatoes contain lycopene, a nutrient that gives tomatoes their color. Lycopene lowers blood pressure and helps protect against prostate cancer.

Tip: Processed tomato products have more lycopene than fresh, so go ahead and have a glass of tomato juice with breakfast, use canned tomatoes to make a sauce for dinner or dab some jarred salsa on a cracker for a midafternoon snack.

“When I prepare dinner, I leave the vegetables for last,” says Ardisson Korat. “I start with a grain, which takes 30 minutes or more to cook, especially if it’s a whole grain. Then I prep the protein part of the meal and finally, as close to serving time as possible, I prepare the vegetables. Doing it that way preserves their flavor, their texture and their nutrients.”

Here are some food combinations that provide an extra nutrition boost

Combining certain foods when you eat can influence the way your body absorbs nutrients, notes Penny Kris-Etherton, Evan Pugh University professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State University. Although all of these foods are good on their own, they’re even better with a partner.

1. Salads with dressing: Pair salads and vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and carrots that are high in fat-soluble vitamins with an oil-based dressing. A basic vinaigrette with salad oil, lemon juice, mustard and pepper does trick.

2. Vitamin C boost: Non-heme iron, a mineral found in vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts and string beans, carries oxygen throughout the body so that our cells can produce energy. Help it do its job by pairing these vegetables with vitamin C-rich foods such as oranges, grapefruit and surprisingly, roasted russet potatoes.

3. Greens and avocado: Mixing leafy greens with avocado can increase the absorption of nutrients that are essential to keep your eyes, skin and immune system healthy.

4. Tea with lemon: Tea and lemon make a dynamite combo. Both green tea and black tea contain a substance with the tongue-twisting name epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is linked to reduced inflammation. The body can better absorb EGCG when tea is flavored with citrus.

5. Tomatoes and oil: Roasted tomatoes with oil, tomato sauce and salads with oil-based dressing all help increase the body’s absorption of lycopene, a plant pigment that gives tomatoes their vibrant color. Lycopene helps protect the body’s cells from damage and has been linked to good oral and bone health, as well as a reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers.

Nissa Simon is a health writer and editor whose articles have appeared in Reader’s Digest, Newsweek, The New York Times, Time, Vogue and other national publications.

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