The debate is still on about whether raw food is better or cooked, but most nutritionists suggest a mix of both. Some foods, when eaten raw, helps preserve their nutrients and also allows your body to absorb them better. While there’s a long list of foods you can cook and eat, this list tells you about 8 foods which are rich in nutrients that benefit you the most when had in their natural form.
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It’s no secret that greens are good for you but having them raw can also be beneficial. Spinach is high in water soluble nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B, and polyphenolics, a group of compounds known for their antioxidant properties. Research has shown that these nutrients and compounds tend to degrade when cooked.1 While there are benefits of eating cooked spinach, if you want to save the antioxidants in spinach, you should consider having it raw.
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2. Red Peppers
Like spinach, red peppers are also rich in vitamin C but are low on calories which makes them a great heath food. A medium sized red pepper has only about 32 calories but contains about 95% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. The National Institutes of Health says that when red peppers are cooked, the vitamin C, which is in the form of ascorbic acid, breaks down.2 Having red peppers raw preserves its antioxidant properties and helps cure anemia.
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When compared to other fruits, blueberries have the most amount of antioxidants.3 They also contain healthy fiber and polyphenols which offer several health benefits. However, research by the Journal of Food Science showed that processing of blueberries left only 36 to 39% of polyphenols when compared to the raw fruit.4 That’s why it’s best to have blueberries raw and preferably, fresh.
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Coconuts provide the best hydration when compared to any other natural food and can compete against even sports drinks for their hydration properties. The natural electrolytes present in coconut water not only hydrate the body but also are the closest natural substitute to what your body produces.5 Coconuts also contain several other nutrients and healthy fats which can lower cholesterol levels. Coconuts are best had raw as many of these benefits are lost when coconuts are dried and processed.
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Seaweeds like wakame, arame, and nori are one of the greatest sources of chlorophyll available. They are also high on protein ranging from 20% in green algae to 70% in spirulina. They contain many essential minerals like calcium, iodine, magnesium, and iron along with being rich in vitamin C. Having seaweed raw preserves the natural nutrient content.
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Onions are a major source of flavanoids which have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Eating onions raw lowers the production of bad cholesterol (LDL), thus reducing the risk of heart disease. Onions also contain a powerful cancer fighting compound called quercetin. Due to the fact that onions contain several organic sulphur compounds which are partly destroyed by heat, it’s best to eat them raw.6
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Sulforaphane, one of the many beneficial compounds in Broccoli, is known for its cancer fighting properties. However, boiling and stir frying greatly diminishes the amount of this nutrient along with destroying chlorophyll and vitamin C.7 When compared to other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli also has the highest level of another cancer fighting compound known as carotenoid.8 Scientists have found that if you have to cook broccoli, the ideal method is to steam as it doesn’t significantly reduce the nutrient value.9
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While Kale has gained a lot of popularity in America recently, it used to be a common green vegetable in Europe. Kale has fiber, potassium, and vitamin C and B6 which are great to maintain heart health. High potassium intakes are also associated with protection against loss of muscle mass, reduced risk of stroke, reduction in the formation of kidney stones, and preservation of bone mineral density. Get all the benefits of kale by adding it in your salads and dips.
While some foods can be had raw, having cooked food also is not entirely bad for you. Some nutrients like lycopene in tomatoes and carotene in carrots are better absorbed after they’ve been heated. Make sure your diet has a good balance of both and that you eat plenty of vegetables along with your protein.
|↑1||Amin, I., Y. Norazaidah, and KI Emmy Hainida. “Antioxidant activity and phenolic content of raw and blanched Amaranthus species.” Food chemistry 94, no. 1 (2006): 47-52.|
|↑2||Vitamin C. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3||Wolfe, Kelly L., Xinmei Kang, Xiangjiu He, Mei Dong, Qingyuan Zhang, and Rui Hai Liu. “Cellular antioxidant activity of common fruits.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 56, no. 18 (2008): 8418-8426.|
|↑4||Lee, Jungmin, Robert W. Durst, and Ronald E. Wrolstad. “Impact of juice processing on blueberry anthocyanins and polyphenolics: comparison of two pretreatments.” Journal of Food Science 67, no. 5 (2002): 1660-1667.|
|↑5||Ismail, I., R. Singh, and R. G. Sirisinghe. “Rehydration with sodium-enriched coconut water after exercise-induced dehydration.” (2007).|
|↑6||Hansen, Emilie A., John D. Folts, and Irwin L. Goldman. “Steam-cooking rapidly destroys and reverses onion-induced antiplatelet activity.” Nutrition journal 11, no. 1 (2012): 76.|
|↑7||Conaway, C. Clifford, Serkadis M. Getahun, Leonard L. Liebes, Donald J. Pusateri, Debra KW Topham, María Botero-Omary, and Fung-Lung Chung. “Disposition of glucosinolates and sulforaphane in humans after ingestion of steamed and fresh broccoli.” Nutrition and cancer 38, no. 2 (2000): 168-178.|
|↑8||Johnson, Elizabeth J. “The role of carotenoids in human health.” Nutrition in Clinical Care 5, no. 2 (2002): 56-65.|
|↑9||Yuan, Gao-feng, Bo Sun, Jing Yuan, and Qiao-mei Wang. “Effects of different cooking methods on health-promoting compounds of broccoli.” Journal of Zhejiang University Science B 10, no. 8 (2009): 580.|