It might seem counterintuitive that some foods release more nutrients when cooked.  After all, when it comes to getting the most nutrition from your meals, everyone knows that consuming food in its purest form (raw) trumps cooking it every time. And indeed, some nutrients in food can be lost during the cooking process. Water-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamins B and C, are destroyed in food when heated, along with omega-3 fatty acids and some antioxidants. Some minerals can also be leached in water. So to get the most bang for your whole foods buck, you should just stick to chomping raw meals and never cook anything when you can possibly help it, right?

You might not want to throw out all your pots just yet. Some foods actually release more nutrients when cooked. Here’s a list of common foods that supply you with more health-boosting benefits after they’re heated:

Eggs: Egg whites provide biotin, a nutrient that promotes healthy bones, skin and hair. Avidin, a protein in raw eggs, renders biotin inactive. Cooking denatures, or changes the shape of avidin. Once denatured, avidin will not bind to biotin, thereby allowing it to be digested. So to enjoy the benefits of this protein, you need to add some heat!

Tomatoes: Lycopene gives tomatoes their bright red color and also provides the human body with an antioxidant that fights free radicals (which damage cells) and also helps reduce your risk of stroke. A study published in the             Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry demonstrated that tomatoes actually produce more lycopene after they are heated, due to the fact that the cooking process helps release some of the antioxidants that are bound to the plant’s walls.

Carrots: Another study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry indicated that boiling carrots helped preserve higher levels of carotenoids, an antioxidant that provides Vitamin A, fights free radicals and helps reduce the risk of eye disease, heart disease and some types of cancer.

Spinach: Spinach serves up a higher iron volume when cooked as opposed to raw. Iron is a mineral vital to your health; it helps transport oxygen to your blood cells, promotes immune system function and assists in energy production.

Other vegetables, like mushrooms, cabbage, peppers and spinach have been shown to release more antioxidants when cooked. Boil or steam your food to avoid the higher rates of oxidation associated with frying, which promotes free radical production.

The good news is that you don’t have to eschew cooking to reap some serious health benefits from some of your favorite foods. So fire up the stove and enjoy a nice hot meal of steamed spinach, boiled carrots and more, served up with an extra boost of nutrients!

References: Linus Pauling Institute (eggs), Journal Of Agricultural and Food Chemistry  (tomatoes), Harvard Health (tomatoes), Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (carrots), Linus Pauling Institute (carrots), PubMed (carrots), Ohio State University (spinach); University of Missouri 

Originally posted 2013-10-18 11:18:16.


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