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Who wants to cook on a hot summer night? With all the fresh vegetables of the season, a big summer salad seems like the way to go—or is it? Some produce is most nutritious when eaten raw, but there are some veggies that need a little cooking before they give up all the goodness they have to offer.
Cooking softens cellulose fiber making some foods more digestible but it can also kill some vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C dissolves in water and the longer you cook your food the more vitamin C is lost.
On the plus side, lycopene and beta-carotene are more easily absorbed when foods containing them are cooked.
When cooking, steaming or microwaving are recommended—not deep frying in hot oil.
How to Best Prepare 10 Popular Vegetables
Carrots are best when cooked to increase the amount of carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which are good for eye health. Learn more about carrot's health benefits!
Broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage contain cancer-fighting enzymes that are damaged during cooking so enjoy them raw or briefly steamed. They also contain vitamins C & K.
Garlic has the highest amounts of selenium and allicin when eaten raw or added at the end of cooking. Raw garlic is good for lowering blood pressure and keeping vampires—and everyone else—away!
Red bell peppers contain twice the RDA of vitamin C when eaten raw.
Tomatoes are wonderful raw but cooking makes the lycopene they contain more readily absorbed by the body. Lycopene is a powerful anti-oxidant that lowers the risk of heart attack and cancer. Also: Store tomatoes in room temperature since tomatoes lose their nutrients (and taste) when stored cold.
Mushrooms are best raw but quick cooking will raise the amounts of anti-oxidants in some types.
Beets eaten raw will maintain high levels of folate, a B vitamin good for blood pressure and brain health.
Asparagus is also high in folate so add that to your raw salad.
Spinach is best cooked to make its minerals, including iron and calcium, more readily absorbed.
Chard offers lutein and zeaxanthin, anti-oxidants vital for healthy eyes, when lightly steamed.
Even a fresh food fanatic like me has to admit that sometimes cooked is best, especially if it releases beneficial enzymes and phytonutrients. When cooking stop at tender crisp, not soft and mushy.
Whether you choose raw or cooked, the most nutritious fruits and vegetables are the ones you eat!