Nine vegetables that are healthier for you when cooked

raw food diets are a fairly recent trend, including raw veganism. The belief being that the less processed food the better. However, not all foods are more nutritious when eaten raw. Indeed, some vegetables are actually more nutritious when they cooked. Here are nine.

1. Asparagus

All living things are made up of cells, and in vegetables, important nutrients are sometimes trapped in these cell walls. When vegetables are cooked, the walls break down, releasing nutrients which can then be absorbed more easily by the body. Kitchen asparagus breaks down its cell walls, making vitamins A, B9, C and E more available for absorption.

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2. Mushrooms

Mushrooms contain large amounts of the antioxidant ergothioneine, which is released during cooking. Antioxidants help break down “free radicals,” chemicals that can damage our cells, causing disease and aging.

Mushrooms contain large amounts of the antioxidant ergothioneine, which is released during cooking. (Source: Pixabay)

3. Spinach

Spinach is rich in nutrients, including iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc. However, these nutrients are more easily absorbed when spinach is cooked. Indeed, spinach is full of oxalic acid (a compound present in many plants) which blocks the absorption of iron and calcium. Heater spinach releases bound calcium, making it more available for the body to absorb.

Research suggests that steaming spinach maintains its folate (B9) levels, which may reduce the risk of certain cancers.

4. Tomatoes

Cooking by any method significantly increases the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes. Lycopene has been linked to a lower risk of various chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer. This increased amount of lycopene comes from heat helping to break down thick cell walls, which contain several important nutrients.

Although cooking the tomatoes reduced their vitamin C content by 29%, their lycopene content increased by more than 50% within 30 minutes of cooking.

5. Carrots

Cooked carrots contain more beta-carotene than raw carrotswhich is a substance called a carotenoid that the body converts into vitamin A. This fat-soluble vitamin supports bone growth, vision, and the immune system.

Cooking carrots with the skin on more than doubles their antioxidant power. You should boil whole carrots before slicing them as this prevents these nutrients from escaping into the cooking water. Avoid frying carrots as this reduces the amount of carotenoids.

6. Peppers

peppers are an excellent source of immune-boosting antioxidants, especially carotenoids, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin and lutein. Heat breaks down cell walls, making it easier for your body to absorb carotenoids. As with tomatoes, vitamin C is lost when peppers are boiled or steamed because the vitamin can leach into the water. Try roasting them instead.


Brassica, which include broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, are high in glucosinolates (sulfur-containing phytochemicals), which the body can convert into a range of cancer-fighting compounds. For these glucosinolates to be converted into cancer-fighting compounds, an enzyme in these vegetables called myrosinase must be active.

Bell peppers are an excellent source of immune-boosting antioxidants (Source: Pixabay)

Research has shown that steaming these vegetables preserves both vitamin C and myrosinase and, therefore, the cancer-fighting compounds you can get from them. Chopping the broccoli and letting it sit for at least 40 minutes before cooking also allows this myrosinase to activate.

Likewise, sprouts, when cooked, produce indole, a compound that may reduce the risk of cancer. Cooking the sprouts also causes the glucosinolates to break down into compounds known for their cancer-fighting properties.

8. Green beans

Green beans have higher levels of antioxidants when baked, microwaved, grilled, or even fried, as opposed to boiled or pressure-cooked.

9. Kale

kale is healthier when lightly steamed because it deactivates enzymes that prevent the body from using the iodine it needs for the thyroid, which helps regulate your metabolism.

For all vegetables, higher temperatures, longer cooking times, and greater amounts of water cause more nutrients to be lost. Water-soluble vitamins (C and many B vitamins) are the most unstable nutrients when it comes to cooking because they leach out of vegetables into the cooking water. So avoid soaking them in water, use as little water as possible when cooking, and use other cooking methods, such as smoking or roasting. Also, if you have leftover cooking water, use it in soups or sauces as it has all the nutrients leached out.

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