Vegetables: raw or cooked? The healthiest way to eat your greens

Kim Hookem-Smith
Yahoo Lifestyle
22 February 2013

Vegetables are the new meat. After the horsemeat scandal and questions over our carnivorous food chain, supermarkets have admitted sales of vegetarian meals sales are on the rise and we turn off meat.

But do you know how to get the best out of your veggies? Some are much healthier eaten raw, but not all.  Here are our top tips for cooking different vegetables the best way.

Vegetable cooking methods:

Light steaming is best as it keeps nutrients in. Aim to steam for a short time so the veg still has a crunch to it.

Roasting in foil is the second best way to cook vegetables. Be sure to pour their roasting juice over them at the end to keep any nutrients that have leached out due to the heat.

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Shallow frying does keep the nutrients in but again don't overdo it and make sure the veg is still a little crunchy. This method isn't so good if you're trying to reduce the amount of fat you eat as the veg will absorb some oil.

Stewing or making ratatouille may reduce some of the vitamin C or folate thanks to the heat but many of the other minerals will seep in the cooking juice, which will get eaten anyway

Don't boil.
It makes veg soggy, destroys much of the goodness, and many of the nutrients will end up in the boiling water.

Vegetables best eaten raw

The 'raw food diet' has many followers who insist that cooking food destroys much of its nutrients. This isn't always true, but there are some vegetables that are better eaten raw.

Beetroot loses up to 25 per cent of its folate when cooked, broccoli retains more of its cancer-fighting potential raw and onions' key health ingredient allicin is more potent when eaten raw.

[Related: Why younger women need to think about their heart health]

Red peppers and foods with high levels of vitamin C are often best eaten raw to preserve it.

Vegetables best eaten cooked

Cooking veg above 375°C destroys its vitamin C so aim for short periods of cooking at lower heat.

Carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and kale are better lightly cooked as the caratenoids are more easily absorbed by the body. Cooked tomatoes also give you more heart-protecting lycopene.

Asparagus is best lightly steamed, as the heat releases it's cancer-fighting potential. It also tastes better. Eating spinach cooked will allow you to absorb more calcium, iron, and magnesium.

[Related: The diet foods that are make you fat]

Cooking mushrooms boosts their potassium levels. And again, makes them taste better.

Pairing vegetables for optimum health benefits

Eating certain vegetables together can boost the health benefits of each individual one.

For example, avocados are ideal to eat tossed in a salad as the natural oils allow your body to absorb more of the nutrients from lettuce and other salad veg.

[Related: Is your diet giving you acne?]

Broccoli is best eaten with peppery vegetables such as radishes or watercress as the enzyme that gives them their fiery flavour boost the cancer-fighting properties of the cruciferous veg.

If you're considering going full vegetarian, check out our guide to going veggie healthily, to make sure you get all the nutrients you need.

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