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Raw vs Cooked – which is better?
At the Irish Heart Foundation, we aim to provide accurate and evidence-based information on heart health to help you make informed decisions about your health. One of the questions we get asked a lot is which is better raw or cooked?
We all know that eating well is good for your heart and the recent prolonged spell of sunshine has made it easier to opt for healthier options like a crunchy salad or fresh fruit. But when it comes to fruit and vegetables, is raw better than cooked and does cooking these foods make them less healthy?
According to our resident expert dietitian Sarah Noone, whichever way you prefer to eat your vegetables, salad and fruit, raw or cooked, the most important thing is to eat them. Research shows that most of us in Ireland are not meeting the recommended 5-7 portions of vegetables, salad and fruit a day.
Whichever way you prefer to eat your vegetables, salad and fruit, raw or cooked, the most important thing is to eat them.
“We do know cooking some vegetables can reduce some of the nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin B1 and folate which are vitamins that dissolve in water. However, this loss is modest and can be offset by eating a varied diet and lightly steaming vegetables instead of boiling them to death. While the cooking process can decrease the nutrient content of some vegetables, nutrients in other vegetables (such as lycopene in tomatoes or beta carotene in carrots) are more available to our bodies if they are lightly cooked,” Sarah explained.
However, this does not mean that raw is better than cooked or vice versa.
While there is an advantage to cooking certain vegetables and eating others raw, Sarah said that the key to getting the most out of vegetables, salad and fruit was to have a variety. She also advised that when cooking vegetables or fruit the key was to keep them crunchy, to retain the heat sensitive nutrients, while enhancing others.
“We don’t need to eat all our food raw to have a nutritious diet.”
Overall Sarah said it was good to eat some raw foods – such as fresh fruit and salads – as part of the recommended 5 -7 portions of vegetables, salad or fruit a day. However, she added “we definitely don’t need to eat all our food raw to have a nutritious diet.”
“Eating all raw food could also mean we end up lacking in nutrients and energy, as the variety of foods we could eat would be quite limited. Although it is true that we should be eating more fruit and vegetables, we also need other foods that require cooking, like starchy carbohydrates, to give us the range of nutrients we require for good health.”
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