On your quest to eat healthy, you would think it would make sense to eat foods in their purest forms. Although that may be the case for things like processed foods, it's a popular misconception that fruits and vegetables must be eaten raw to maximize their nutrients. There are actually certain vegetables that are more nutritious once cooked, as certain nutrients are unabsorbable in their raw form.
But don’t go ahead and start steaming all your vegetables quite yet. While there are some foods that are better heated, there are certain others that instead lose nutrients. To help you decide what veggies to toss in the pan versus which ones to include in a salad, we’ve made a list of five vegetables that become healthier when heated.
Cooking tomatoes increases your body’s overall absorption of antioxidants. It especially increases absorption of lycopene, an important phytochemical that helps fight off cancer and heart disease.
Studies have found that boiling or steaming carrots preserves carotenoids. Like lycopene, carotenoids are antioxidants that help fight against cancer. Cooking carrots also increases their levels of beta-carotene, a type of carotenoid that turns into vitamin A, promoting healthy skin, a healthy immune system, and good eye health.
Heating asparagus increases your body’s absorption of ferulic acid, another important antioxidant. Slow roasting or steaming the vegetable helps break down the plant cell walls, making it easy for your body to take in the cancer-fighting nutrients.
Like most other cooked vegetables, heated spinach contains more antioxidants than its raw counterpart, along with increased vitamin A. Leafy greens contain an inhibitor called oxalic acid, which can block absorption of calcium, iron, and magnesium. Cooking spinach breaks down the oxalic acid, allowing these nutrients to be more easily absorbed.
As is the case with tomatoes, cooking red bell peppers helps release lycopene. Studies have also shown that cooking green bell pepper helps with reducing your body’s cholesterol even more so than raw peppers.