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Raw vs. Cooked Vegetables
Health differences between raw and cooked vegetables.

Are raw or cooked veggies healthier?
Are raw or cooked veggies healthier?

Vegetables are packed with fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and an incredible variety of cancer-fighting, heart-healthy stuff. There is a catch, though. The way you prepare or don't prepare those vegetables makes a difference. Here are some of the significant differences between raw and cooked foods.

Steam a bunch of asparagus, and the process breaks down the fibrous cell walls. That means when you eat it, your body can absorb the vitamins A, C and E more easily. But asparagus isn't the only vegetable that benefits from a bit of heat.

Cooking tomatoes increases the antioxidant lycopene; cooking mushrooms degrades a potential cancer-causing agent in them, and cooking legumes eliminates dangerous toxins called lectins. In a January 2008 report in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, researchers found that boiling or steaming carrots and zucchini was a better way to preserve antioxidants.

Clearly, for those foods, cooking is better than eating them raw. So what's a vegetable that's better raw?

Broccoli; it has a cancer-fighting compound called sulforaphane. That compound is created when two other compounds in broccoli (myrosinase and glucoraphanin) mix as the plant is chewed, blended or chopped up and eaten. If you eat broccoli raw, you'll get three times as much sulforaphane as cooked broccoli.

But there's more. If you eat just the young sprouts of broccoli, known as broccolini, they contain over 20 times more sulforaphane than the mature broccoli plants. Concentrate on the florets, and you'll do even better because the stalks have very little sulforaphane in them.

There's a catch. According to John Hopkins Institute, you need 40 micromoles of sulforaphane daily to reduce your risk of developing cancer. To get that much sulforaphane, you would have to eat 2.7 POUNDS of broccoli a day. Even if you love broccoli, that's not realistic.

Fortunately, researchers found plenty of cruciferous vegetables with anti-cancer properties. You could eat arugula, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, collards, kale, kohlrabi, radish, mustard greens, turnip and watercress. All of these have cancer-fighting abilities in both raw and cooked versions.

The health advantages of eating vegetables are enormous. One study tracked 47,909 health professionals over ten years. The researchers found that eating just five servings of cruciferous vegetables a week cut the risk of bladder cancer in half, compared to those who ate just one serving a week or less.

Breast cancer saw similar results. When Swedish women were studied, the ones that ate one or two servings of cruciferous vegetables a day saw their risk cut in half compared to women who ate few or none of those vegetables.

Far more important than choosing between raw or cooked vegetables is cooking things more healthily. French fries are delicious, but deep frying strips of potatoes in oil doesn't give you healthy food.

When you deep fry vegetables, they lose valuable antioxidants. Fried foods release free radicals, which are damaging to the cells of your body. If you're trying to get more healthy vegetables in your diet, explore recipes that include air frying, boiling, microwaving, pressure cooking or steaming.

Raw vs Cooked Veggies

We found thousands of sites online where people claimed raw food diets helped cure autoimmune disorders, cancer, heart disease, IBS and dozens of other diseases and conditions. But carefully controlled, large-scale studies to prove those claims don't exist. Testimonials and marketing claims are not scientific proof.

Researchers HAVE found that eating vegetables can prevent cancer, reduce heart disease and help people live longer. However, there weren't significant differences between people who ate vegetables that were cooked or raw in those studies.

As long as you're not deep-frying your veggies or smothering them in fatty sauces before you eat them, there isn't that much of a difference between cooked or raw foods. Plus, there are many foods that you can only get all the benefits from if you steam or boil them first.

The bottom line is, if you like eating raw vegetables more, then make sure they're washed and enjoy. If cooking vegetables helps you eat more, then cook away.

Consumer Reports and the one veggie you should NEVER eat raw.

The following is from Consumer Reports. The direct link is: https://www.consumerreports.org/fruits-vegetables/vegetables-

Sprouts (Alfalfa, Bean, Mung Bean, Etc.)

Finally, there’s one nutritious veggie that it’s just not a good idea to eat raw for safety reasons. Sprouts are, essentially, baby plants—seeds that have been germinated in warm, watery conditions.

But their production may account in part for why raw sprouts are often contaminated with bacteria that cause foodborne illness, such as listeria and E. coli. According to the Food and Drug Administration: “Sprouts represent a special food safety concern because the conditions under which sprouts are produced (time, temperature, water activity, pH and available nutrients) are also ideal for the growth of pathogens, if present.” And according to the FDA, between January 1996 and August 2018, there have been 50 outbreaks of foodborne illnesses associated with contaminated sprouts.

Try this: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that sprouts shouldn’t be consumed uncooked. People who are pregnant, are very young or very old, or have a compromised immune system should be especially careful because they’re more likely to get sick from foodborne bacteria and have a worse outcome.

In restaurants, request that raw sprouts be left off your dish (salads are often topped with alfalfa sprouts, for instance). At home, you can oven roast them (it doesn’t take long) or boil briefly till they’re heated through and tender-crisp and then use in salads. Or just add them directly into your stir-fries or soups while they’re cooking.

Reference Links:

We went through hundreds of studies on the effects of raw and cooked food to produce this article. Below we provide links to some of the more important ones.

Influence of cooking methods on antioxidant activity of vegetables

A M Jiménez-Monreal, L García-Diz, M Martínez-Tomé, M Mariscal, M A Murcia
Journal of Food Science 2009 Apr;74(3):H97-H103. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01091.x.


Effect of Different Cooking Methods on Vegetable Oxalate Content

Weiwen Chai and Michael Liebman
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2005 53 (8), 3027-3030 DOI: 10.1021/jf048128d


Effects of Different Cooking Methods on Nutritional and Physicochemical Characteristics of Selected Vegetables

Cristiana Miglio, Emma Chiavaro, Attilio Visconti, Vincenzo Fogliano and Nicoletta Pellegrini
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2008 56 (1), 139-147 DOI: 10.1021/jf072304b


Long-term strict raw food diet is associated with favourable plasma β-carotene and low plasma lycopene concentrations in Germans

Ada L. Garcia, Corinna Koebnick, Peter C. Dagnelie, Carola Strassner, Ibrahim Elmadfa, Norbert Katz, Claus Leitzmann and Ingrid Hoffmann
Cambridge University Press: 01 June 2008


Polyphenols and disease risk in epidemiologic studies

Ilja CW Arts, Peter CH Hollman
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 81, Issue 1, January 2005, Pages 317S–325S,


Indole-3-Carbinol and Prostate Cancer

Fazlul H. Sarkar and Yiwei Li
The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 134, Issue 12, December 2004, Pages 3493S–3498S


Suppression of microtubule dynamic instability and turnover in MCF7 breast cancer cells by sulforaphane

Olga Azarenko, Tatiana Okouneva, Keith W. Singletary, Mary Ann Jordan and Leslie Wilson
Carcinogenesis, Volume 29, Issue 12, December 2008, Pages 2360–2368,


Sulforaphane inhibits extracellular, intracellular, and antibiotic-resistant strains of Helicobacter pylori and prevents benzo[a]pyrene-induced stomach tumors

Jed W. Fahey, Xavier Haristoy, Patrick M. Dolan, Thomas W. Kensler, Isabelle Scholtus, Katherine K. Stephenson, Paul Talalay and Alain Lozniewski
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America May 28, 2002 99 (11) 7610-7615;


Influence of heat treatment on the antioxidant activities and polyphenolic compounds of Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) mushroom

Y. Choia, S.M. Lee, J. Chun, H.B. Lee and J. Lee
Food Chemistry Volume 99, Issue 2, 2006, Pages 381-387


Thermal Processing Enhances the Nutritional Value of Tomatoes by Increasing Total Antioxidant Activity

Veronica Dewanto, Xianzhong Wu, Kafui K. Adom and Rui Hai Liu
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2002 50 (10), 3010-3014 DOI: 10.1021/jf0115589


Antioxidant Changes and Sensory Properties of Carrot Puree Processed with and without Periderm Tissue

S. T. Talcott, L. R. Howard, and C. H. Brenes
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2000 48 (4), 1315-1321 DOI: 10.1021/jf9910178


Effects of Genetic, Pre- and Post-Harvest Factors on Phenolic Content and Antioxidant Capacity of White Asparagus Spears

Eleftherios Papoulias, Anastasios S. Siomos, Athanasios Koukounaras, Dimitrios Gerasopoulos, and Evangelos Kazakis
International Journal of Molecular Sciences 2009 Dec; 10(12): 5370–5380. Published online 2009 Dec 16.


Antioxidant properties of raw and cooked spears of green asparagus cultivars

Simone Fanasca, Youssef Rouphael, Eugenia Venneria, Elena Azzini, Alessandra Durazzo, Giuseppe Maiani
International Journal of Food Science & Technology February 2009 44(5):1017 - 1023


Effects of Different Cooking Methods on Antioxidant Profile, Antioxidant Capacity, and Physical Characteristics of Artichoke

Rosalia Ferracane, Nicoletta Pellegrini, Attilio Visconti, Giulia Graziani, Emma Chiavaro, Cristiana Miglio and Vincenzo Fogliano
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2008 56 (18), 8601-8608 DOI: 10.1021/jf800408w


Kinetics of the Stability of Broccoli (Brassica oleracea Cv. Italica) Myrosinase and Isothiocyanates in Broccoli Juice during Pressure/Temperature Treatments

D. Van Eylen, I. Oey, M. Hendrick and A. Van Loey
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2007 55 (6), 2163-2170 DOI: 10.1021/jf062630b


Steam cooking significantly improves in vitro bile acid binding of beets, eggplant, asparagus, carrots, green beans, and cauliflower

Talwinder S., Kahlon, Mei-Chen M., Chiu and Mary H. Chapman
Nutrition Research Volume 27, Issue 12, December 2007, Pages 750-755


Cooking influence on physico-chemical fruit characteristics of eggplant (Solanum melongena L.)

Roberto Lo Scalzo, Marta Fibiani, Gianluca Francese, Antonietta D’Alessandro, Giuseppe L. Rotino, Pellegrino Conte and Giuseppe Mennella
Food Chemistry Volume 194, 1 March 2016, Pages 835-842


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