Dear Academy Q&A…
Dear Academy is where we invite you to tell us what is on your mind and ask us any questions related to food, cooking, nutrition, growing your own, smart shopping and sustainability.
Q. Is it better to eat raw or cooked vegetables?
David Bonneville, London
HKA: As with everything in life, balance is best, so eating a mixture of both raw and cooked vegetables allows us to get the most benefit.
It’s true that cooking vegetables can damage some of their valuable nutrients (like vitamin C) however, some vegetables have tough cell walls that prevent the antioxidants locked within them becoming accessible without some cooking.
Although cooking tomatoes, for example, destroys their vitamin C content, it allows us to access the powerful antioxidant Lycopene, which helps our bodies to fight many toxins and free radicals.
The vitamins in vegetables are either water soluble or fat soluble. Some of the valuable fat soluble vitamins (A, D, K) are better absorbed in our bodies if eaten along with a good quality fat. So enjoy raw leafy greens with an olive oil dressing, or lightly stir fry kale or cabbage with coconut oil for optimum vitamin absorption.
To avoid losing the water soluble vitamins (B group and C) from our vegetables, we can use methods that retain the water that the vegetables have been cooked in, like soups or stews. Or choose cooking methods that don’t involve water, like roasting or baking.
Raw vegetables contain more water and their fibre content hasn’t been broken down via cooking, and so they can help us to feel fuller as they have more volume.
Try to eat your vegetables as fresh as possible, as vitamins and nutrients begin to decrease during transportation and storage times. Attempt to prepare your vegetables just before you plan to eat them, rather than too far in advance as the nutrients will begin to diminish as soon as you cut into a vegetable.
So to summarise:
* Choose raw veg to get a valuable immune boost from vitamin C and cooked ones to top up on antioxidant benefits.
* Tune into your body to see what you feel you need at different times of the year, and eat veg as fresh as you can.