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Raw vs Cooked Vegetables: Are Cooked Vegetables Healthy? Are Raw Vegetables More Nutritious? What Vegetables Your Health Needs

Raw vs Cooked Vegetables Debate for Health

I am often asked by patients if raw vegetables are healthier than cooked vegetables. Raw vegetables vs cooked vegetables--which one is needed for health? I think this is the wrong question to be asking. A better question would be, "am I eating enough vegetables?" Here is why.

There are many aspects of nutrition behavior change that I consider to be low impact changes. What a low impact change is a very specific behavior that is unlikely to make a noteworthy change in one's health. Examples are removing the one teaspoon of sugar from your coffee, not having birthday cake on your birthday, and swapping your cooked vegetables for raw vegetables. This is because the scale of these changes is not enough to be impactful.

carrots cooking in a pot

Where Raw Vegetables Top Cooked Vegetables for Health

There are some known benefits of raw vegetables over cooked vegetables. Raw vegetables can be somewhat higher in certain vitamins. This is because that some vitamins are degraded over time and with heat. What that translates to, for example, is slightly less folate, riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin in cooked carrots compared to raw carrots. Importantly, these vitamins are all still present in cooked carrots, just in smaller amounts.

It is essential to note that eating the cooked version of any vegetable is not a known cause of a vitamin deficiency, and if someone has a vitamin deficiency, switching to raw vegetables is not the solution. I think that the lower vitamin content in cooked vegetables is more of an interesting fact than afact.

Health Benefits of Cooked Vegetables that Top Raw Vegetables

There are also some vitamins and nutritious components of vegetables that are more bioavailable in cooked vegetables compared to raw vegetables. Carotenoids, the vegetable versions of vitamin A, are more bioavailable in cooked produce. Additionally, some people find that they have less digestive discomfort when they eat cooked vegetables rather than raw vegetables. This is because the fibers in cooked vegetables are partially broken down by the heat from cooking.

Raw Vegetables vs Cooked Vegetables: Which is Better for Health?

Raw vegetables are good for health. Cooked vegetables are good for health. In general, most people would have more benefit from eating more vegetables rather than eating only raw vegetables. Anything that can help people eat more vegetables is a good thing. For some, it is cooking them in a way that makes them taste delicious. For others it is having the convenience of frozen vegetables to reheat. Some people prefer being able to just pull raw vegetable out of the fridge to make a quick salad. I think we need to refocus the discussion on how we can eat more vegetables rather than which vegetable preparation method may retain slightly more vitamins.

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