Vegetables that are healthier when cooked and those you should just eat raw

No doubt, you should eat your veggies. Everyone from your mom to your doctor to dietary guidelines are in agreement here. But whether they’re better raw or cooked is where things get a tad more complicated. That’s because some veggies can pack a more nutritious punch if they’re cooked, while others are nutritionally superior if you eat them raw.

Amy Keating, a dietitian at Consumer Reports, explains that many nutrients in vegetables are bound in cell walls, and that cooking breaks down those walls, releasing the nutrients so your body can easily absorb them. But others? Let’s just say they can’t take the heat!

Ready to get this right? You’re already most of the way there by simply eating your vegetables. But here’s a guide to which veggies you should cook, and which you should eat raw:

Carrots: Cooked!

Cooking your carrots actually makes more antioxidants available to your body, according to research from the University of Arkansas. After heating carrots, antioxidant levels increased by a whopping 34 percent, and continued to increase for the first week of storage. (Well, that certainly makes a case for advance meal-prepping.) Antioxidants play an important role in rounding up free radicals in the body, which can then help prevent disease like cancer and Alzheimer’s.

cooked carrots photo
Flickr | Mark Bonica

Broccoli: Raw!

This actually goes for all the foods in the Brassicaceae family, which also includes cauliflower, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. The reason being? Cooking dramatically reduces sulforaphane, which can help prevent cancer.

Tomatoes: Cooked!

We’ll leave the debate alone as to whether they’re a fruit or vegetable, but the Supreme Court did once label tomatoes a veggie. The evidence is clear, however, that cooking tomatoes is better for you than eating them raw. Heating up tomatoes makes them heart healthier and supercharges their cancer-fighting ability, even though you do lose out on some of the Vitamin C that’s found in tomatoes, according to Cornell food scientists.

tomatoes photo
Getty Images | Dan Kitwood

Onions: Raw!

Add some raw onion slices to your sandwich or salad for maximum nutritional benefits. That’s because onions contain sulfur compounds, which can help protect against cancer, keep your cholesterol in check and lower your blood pressure, according to Tufts’ Frances Stern Nutrition Center. Just brush your teeth afterwards.

onions photo
Getty Images | Sean Gallup

Asparagus: Cooked!

Two different studies have found that cooking asparagus stalks helps boost their cancer-fighting antioxidants. One study that showed exactly this was published in the Journal of Food Science & Technology. Another study in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences showed cooking asparagus more than doubled phenolic acids, which research has linked to lower cancer rates.

cooked asparagus photo
Flickr | woodleywonderworks

Red Bell Peppers: Raw!

OK, this is tough news to swallow if you love baked stuffed peppers. But a half cup of raw bell pepper contains 155 percent of your daily recommended Vitamin C, according to the National Institutes of Health. But when you cook it above 375 degrees, you significantly break down the Vitamin C.

red bell pepper photo
Flickr | Pascal Volk

[h/t: Consumer Reports]

Food, Health
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About the Author
Brittany Anas
Hi, I'm Brittany Anas (pronounced like the spice, anise ... see, that wasn't too embarrassing to say, now was it?) My professional writing career started when I was in elementary school and my grandma paid me $1 for each story I wrote for her. I'm a former newspaper reporter, with more than a decade of experience Hula-hooping at planning meetings and covering just about every beat from higher-education to crime to science for the Boulder Daily Camera and The Denver Post. Now, I'm a freelance writer, specializing in travel, health, food and adventure.

I've contributed to publications including Men's Journal, Forbes, Women's Health, American Way, TripSavvy, Eat This, Not That!, Apartment Therapy, Denver Life Magazine, 5280, Livability, The Denver Post, Simplemost, USA Today Travel Tips, Make it Better, AAA publications, Reader's Digest, Discover Life and more.

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