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9 Foods That Are Healthier When Cooked

Justina Huddleston is an editor and the head writer for TDmonthly Magazine. She has been a freelance writer for several years, though her real passion is cooking. You can see the recipes she creates on her vegan food blog, A Life of Litt...

#1/10:

Which vegetables should you cook?

#1/10:

Which vegetables should you cook?

Eating raw food is great, but for me, eating nothing but raw produce is a bit much. There's only so much chopped broccoli salad a girl can eat. Thankfully, it turns out that not only are cooked veggies plenty healthy in their own right, but there are actually some that are even healthier (meaning, their nutrients are more accessible) after being cooked.

The key, as always, is mixing and matching your produce intake so you get the best variety of nutrients possible. Cooking tomatoes increases the amount of available lycopene, but decreases the amount of vitamin C per serving; but you can make up for the lost vitamin C by serving them with broccoli at the same meal, which retains enough vitamin C after cooking to give you 107 percent of your daily recommended intake per half-cup serving or by snacking on raw red pepper or strawberries at some other point in your day.

The best cooking method? For most vegetables, it seems to be gently simmering them, whole or in large chunks (you can cut them smaller before serving) in 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. Make sure to serve with a drizzle of olive, walnut or flaxseed oil or a wedge of avocado — healthy fats like these aid the body in absorbing essential vitamins and minerals.

Time to get cooking! Learn about the vegetables that are healthier when cooked in the following slides.

#3/10:

Tomatoes

#3/10:

Tomatoes

Tomatoes need to be cooked if you want to benefit from lycopene, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Because of the thick skin that houses the lycopene, you only get about 4 percent of the lycopene available when you eat them raw. But when you cook them and break down the thick cellular wall of tomatoes, the lycopene can easily be absorbed. 

#4/10:

Carrots

#4/10:

Carrots

Levels of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body converts into vitamin A, increase when carrots are cooked.

#5/10:

Spinach

#5/10:

Spinach

Spinach shrinks when you cook it, meaning you can eat more. Spinach is also rich in folic acid, which helps maintain your adrenal and nervous system. To get the most out of your spinach, lightly steam it to preserve as much folic acid as possible. Overcooking spinach can reduce the amount of vitamins and minerals you absorb when you eat it. 

#6/10:

Asparagus

#6/10:

Asparagus

Fibrous asparagus has tons of nutrients, but needs to be cooked if you want to be able to absorb them. Much like tomatoes, asparagus has thick cell walls that need to be broken down by heat so all those healthy nutrients can be absorbed. 

#7/10:

Pumpkin

#7/10:

Pumpkin

Not that you would necessarily try eating raw pumpkin, but in case you get the urge to try it, don't. Winter squashes need to be cooked so you can absorb the beta-carotene and antioxidants within. Your body has a hard time absorbing the nutrients in pumpkin when it's raw, but if you cook it and break it down a little, your body absorbs all of that delicious, healthy goodness. 

#8/10:

Mushrooms

#8/10:

Mushrooms

Because of their toughness, it's hard to metabolize the nutrients in 'shrooms unless they're cooked.

#9/10:

Kale

#9/10:

Kale

When kale is cooked, its cholesterol-lowering properties are unleashed.  But similar to spinach, don't overdo the cooking. Just a light steam is best. 

#10/10:

Broccoli

#10/10:

Broccoli

Any way you slice it, broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse. Raw, it offers sulforaphane, which helps fight ulcers and can kill precancerous cells; cooked, it produces indole, a compound that also helps kill precancerous cells.

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