Eating more vegetables, in any form, is a good idea. Whether you prefer them raw or cooked, they are a terrific source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and plenty of healthful compounds.
But sometimes cooking them can make a difference, turning nutrient-dense foods into superfoods. There are a few instances where heat activates antioxidants, making them more accessible to you. In some cases, the heat breaks down cell walls, so nutrients are easier to digest and absorb.
If you want to unlock the full potential of your diet and get as many healthful nutrients as possible, here are some vegetables with enhanced nutrition when cooked.
- Spinach: When cooked, much more iron and calcium become available from spinach. Oxalate acid blocks these nutrients from being absorbed, but it breaks down under high temperatures.
- Mushrooms: Many nutrients in mushrooms, like potassium, niacin, zinc, and magnesium are all doubled during cooking.
- Carrots: Carotenoids are a powerful antioxidant in carrots, and there is research to suggest levels go up by 14% when they are boiled or steamed until tender. On the other hand, pan-frying carrots results in reduction in carotenoid availability.
- Asparagus: Multiple studies have shown asparagus gets a nutritional boost from cooking. Antioxidants, in addition to six other nutrients, can jump by more than 16 percent. Another study showed that cooking asparagus could double its levels of phenolic acid, which can promote a lower risk for some serious chronic illnesses.
- Tomatoes: Cooling tomatoes can substantially boost the availability of lycopene, an antioxidant associated with improved heart health, lower rates of heart disease, and other chronic illnesses.
- Broccoli and cauliflower: Uncooked broccoli and cauliflower can cause all kinds of digestive problems, like pain, gas, and bloating. Cooking these cruciferous vegetables not only makes them easier on your stomach but also activates enzymes that enhance disease-busting compounds.
Although cooking methods vary, steaming has been identified as an excellent way to add and maintain nutritional value. Frying, on the other hand, tends to inhibit nutritional value. Timing also plays a role, and shorter cook times are also associated with improved nutritional value.