You’ve probably heard of the raw food diet and how some people vow it is the healthiest diet ever. But some vegetables are better for us when they are cooked! Don’t get me wrong, eating more vegetables is the first step towards a healthier diet, but if you want to take things a bit further, cooking some vegetables can change their properties and enhance the nutrients they contain, which gives us greater health benefits.
Tomatoes contain an antioxidant called lycopene, which when cooked increases. The heat breaks down the cell walls in the plant, making the nutrient more available for us to absorb. Even better, cooking them with some olive oil has said to enhance the absorption of lycopene even further. So, next time you have a little extra time, add some oil to a frying pan and gently fry your tomatoes on a low heat or oven roast on a low heat for the extra nutrient potential.
Kale belongs to a family of vegetables called cruciferous vegetables. These also include broccoli, cauliflower, bok choi and cabbage. These vegetables are fantastic for helping the liver detoxify, and therefore I really encourage consumption of these regularly. However, for some, eating lots of these vegetables in their raw form may contribute to thyroid dysfunction, if you have an existing dysfunction with your thyroid gland. This is due to them having the potential to block iodine uptake by the thyroid glands. Iodine is a vital nutrient required for the thyroid and producing our active thyroid hormone. Therefore, the bottom line is, make sure you steam or cook them lightly before eating, fermenting also works, as this deactivates the iodine blocking potential.
Lightly steaming carrots can help them release their antioxidants, carotenoids. These contribute to a healthy immune system and fighting against free radical damage within the body.
Another example of a cruciferous vegetable, Brussels Sprouts eaten raw could contribute to digestive symptoms such as bloating and gas, which could be down to their sulphur content. Always serve these cooked – as they taste much nicer too!
Spinach is a nutrient powerhouse vegetable, packed with vitamin c, iron and calcium. Spinach also contains a substance called oxalates, which can actually block the absorption of calcium and iron. Cooking reduces the oxalate content by up to 40%, so always consider this, especially if vegetarian and vegan, where non-haem iron is less easily absorbed. Try blanching your spinach by placing it into boiling water for 1 minute, then plunge into cold water for a few minutes.