Including a wide variety of cooked vegetables and raw vegetables in your diet is vital for promoting optimal health. Vegetables provide you with essential nutrients including potassium, fiber, and folate (folic acid). They’re a great source of vitamins A, C, and E. 

I saw this time and time again in my clinic: over the long-term, diets that are rich in vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease, when combined with grass-fed, pasture raised meats and healthy fats. It’s why a varied diet of nutrient-dense foods is a key part of The Myers Way®.

Yet, you may wonder which is healthier: raw vegetables or cooked vegetables? The answer may surprise you! Whether a cooked vegetable is best or a raw vegetable is the way to go depends on the vegetable. 

Before I discuss the benefits of raw vegetables and cooked vegetables, I’ll let you in on something I’ve been sharing with my community for years. The easiest way to get your vegetables is with my Organic Greens powder!

Raw vs. Cooked Nutritional Differences

Your body breaks down and absorbs nutrients from raw vegetables and cooked vegetables in different ways. Cooking your vegetables affects nutrient quantity and quality because heating them alters their chemical composition. That can be a good thing!

There are several different types of nutrients that are affected by the cooking process.

Minerals

Minerals such as potassium, calcium, and iron are found in many vegetables. By breaking down the vegetable fibers with heat, the nutrients are more readily available and easily absorbed by your body.

Fat-soluble Vitamins and Nutrients

This type of nutrient seeks out fat deposits in the body so that you can retain them for later use. Fat-soluble nutrients including vitamins A, D, E, and K are less likely to be destroyed by the cooking process.  

Water-soluble Vitamins and Nutrients

These nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, and antioxidants are absorbed through cell walls and diffuse throughout the bloodstream. Vegetables with water-soluble nutrients are more susceptible to heat damage. The higher the heat, the more quickly they degrade.  

Which is Better: Raw Vegetables or Cooked Vegetables? 

Eating raw vegetables provides your body with optimal levels of vitamin C and folate. These help protect the body against oxidative stress. They can also guard against neurodegenerative diseases, chronic inflammatory disease, and some forms of depression. 

Yet cooking food can actually make certain nutrients easier to digest and absorb.,, The softened fibers of cooked vegetables leads to the release of vitamins E and K, and better mineral absorption. 

The skins protect the vegetable’s nutrients during the cooking process. So if you cook a vegetable that has an edible skin, such as zucchini, don’t peel it. Just wash it thoroughly.

The Best Option for 10 Popular Vegetables

You can optimize the vitamins or minerals by preparing vegetables with their nutrients in mind Here’s the scoop on whether or not to cook 10 popular vegetables. I’ll cover the best cooking methods a bit later on.

Asparagus

This vegetable is loaded with antioxidants such as lycopene. When heated with a source of fat, the lycopene molecules become easier for your body to absorb into your bloodstream. This is a great cooked vegetable!

Broccoli

If you want to get the most broccoli has to offer, eat this as a raw vegetable. Broccoli’s nutritional value and vitamin C content significantly decrease when this vegetable is exposed to heat and water. 

However, some people are susceptible to the effects of goitrogenic-compounds in raw broccoli. Goitrogens can lead to gas and bloating and impact thyroid health. In this case, it is better to cook your broccoli (and any other cruciferous vegetables, including Brussels sprouts). Steam broccoli for 5-7 minutes to limit direct contact with water and heat.

Carrots

While raw carrots offer more vitamin C, your body absorbs significantly more beta carotene from carrots served as a cooked vegetable. Beta carotene converted to vitamin A in your body supports a healthy immune system and mucus membranes. Because there are so many fruits and vegetables that are good sources of vitamin C, I advise cooking your carrots to get the full benefit of the beta carotene.

Cauliflower

Similar to broccoli, cauliflower offers you far greater amounts of vitamins when it’s a raw vegetable. It contains vitamin C, vitamin B1, and protein, which all break down under high heat. Like broccoli, cauliflower has goitrogenic compounds so, for those of you who are concerned, opt for it as a cooked vegetable.

Kale

For most people, this leafy green is best eaten as a raw vegetable. It’s packed with B vitamins and minerals and one chopped cup of this nutritional powerhouse has about 80 mg of vitamin C. That’s more than the minimum daily recommended value for adults. However, If you are concerned about goitrogens, eat this cruciferous green as a cooked vegetable rather than a raw one.

Onion

You can reap the most benefits from onions by eating them raw. Onions are full of B vitamins that support metabolism and contribute to the body’s ability to produce energy. They also contain the sulfur compounds necessary for protein synthesis and glutathione production.

Mushroom

These little gems contain potassium, niacin, zinc, and magnesium. Cooke these vegetables to make these nutrients more bioavailable. One cup of cooked, white mushrooms has about twice as much of these nutrients as a cup of raw.

Spinach

Leafy greens will benefit your body no matter how you eat them. However, you absorb the abundant minerals such as calcium and iron in this veggie better when this vegetable is cooked. So if you’re on the fence between cooked vs. raw spinach, I’d advise opting for cooked.

Sweet Potato

Always cook sweet potatoes! Sweet potatoes are full of beta carotene and potassium and they have a fiber-rich skin. 

Zucchini /Summer

As long as you keep the skin on, these versatile vegetables are best served as cooked vegetables. Cooked zucchini and summer squash with the skin on provides your body with vitamin A and extra fiber.

Ultimately, a diet including both raw vegetables and cooked vegetables provides the most well-rounded supply of vitamins and minerals than any raw food diet. More options mean more variety! Your body needs a variety of nutrients from foods of all types, including raw vegetables and cooked vegetables. 

How To Cook Vegetables for Optimal Health 

Here are some of my top tips for getting the most out of any vegetable you choose:

Cook Vegetables Quickly

As a general rule, the less time you expose a vegetable to heat, the more nutrients it keeps. Additionally, the less surface area you expose to heat, the fewer nutrients are lost. So cook your chopped veggies in larger chunks until they are al dente, not mushy. Cooking vegetables in the microwave retains one of the highest levels of vitamins, however, I don’t recommend using the microwave unless you are really in a bind for time.

Air Fry

Direct contact with a heat source is one of the ways vegetables lose their nutrients during cooking. However, because the fryer’s basket keeps the vegetables protected from the heat source, they can retain a high percentage of their nutrients.

Steam

Many cooking methods cause significant losses of chlorophyll, vitamin C, and even protein. Steaming separates vegetables from the direct source of heat and limits contact for optimum nutrient-retention. This is one of the very best ways to enjoy cooked vegetables, as between 50 and 90 percent of nutrients can be retained.

Sauté

While it’s generally best to avoid frying your vegetables, sautéeing in a healthy fat such as olive oil is a good way to retain nutrients as well as texture. Just be sure to make it quick and cook until they are just crisp-tender. Feel free to add garlic or spices for extra flavor.

Pressure Cook

Pressure cooking is the top-rated method for cooking vegetables in terms of nutrition retention. In fact, vegetables cooked via this method retain 90 to 95 percent of their nutrients. Because the steam (and heat) can’t escape, the vegetables can cook quickly at a lower temperature than other methods.

Other Methods for Preparing Vegetables for the Best Nutritive Value

Sauces

If you do prefer boiled vegetables, save the water! Nutrients such as beta carotene will seep into the water, which you can use to make a sauce for your meal or freeze for later use in soups and gravies.

Salads

Get creative using more nutrient-dense, raw vegetables. If you’re bored with a typical green salad, try using raw chopped broccoli, kale, and onion. Clean them thoroughly and toss with olive oil for a delicious side dish.

Smoothies

You can easily include fresh vegetables such as spinach or kale in a smoothie. Try using leftover roasted veggies (provided they were only seasoned with salt & pepper). You won’t even know the mild-tasting vegetables are there!

When Should I Eat Cooked Vegetables and Raw Vegetables?

The best way to eat vegetables, whether you opt for cooked vegetables or raw vegetables, is to eat them with every meal. Then, optimize your nutrient intake with the help of supplements such as Organic Greens, and Liposomal Vitamin C.

I created Organic Greens as a nutrient-dense greens powder made with 100% USDA certified organic veggies. It’s rich in the superfoods and phytonutrients that are missing in our modern diets and contains alkaline greens to support detoxification and deliver a boost of antioxidants. When you can’t have raw vegetables or cooked vegetables, or when you simply want to boost your intake, my Organic Greens is an excellent choice.

Additionally, I formulated my Liposomal Vitamin C for optimal bioavailability. This is so important because vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that facilitates an optimal immune response. Vitamin C supports healthy vascular integrity, circulation, and a balanced blood pressure. It even boosts collagen production for healthy hair, skin, nails, and gut cell wall.

So when you’re not getting enough of this important vitamin from your cooked vegetables or from raw vegetables, Liposomal Vitamin C is the optimal way to ensure you reap all of this vitamin’s benefits.

Is a Choice Between Cooked Vegetables and Raw Vegetables Necessary?

You don’t have to choose between raw vegetables and cooked vegetables. You can make the most of a diet rich in vegetables by eating both. Cooked vegetables or raw vegetables, you won’t get any benefits from either if you don’t eat them. So select the varieties and cooking method that you like the most!