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Which Vegetables Are Healthier Cooked?

In response to my Care2 post #1 Anticancer Vegetable, there was a great question about whether it’s better to eat garlic raw or cooked. It appears the secret to maintaining the anti-cancer effects of garlic is either to eat it raw (think salsa, homemade dressings, pesto, etc), or to crush the garlic first, wait ten minutes, and then cook it.

Let me explain: you know those chemical flares? You bend them, two chemicals mix, and a light-emitting reaction takes place? The same kind of thing happens in garlic. Floating around in the cytoplasm of garlic cells is a compound called alliin, and packed away in tiny intracellular storage compartments (called vacuoles) is an enzyme called alliinase. When the garlic tissues are crushed, the two mix and the alliinase enzyme turns alliin into allicin, the phytonutrient thought to be responsible for many of garlic’s health benefits.

Cooking destroys the enzyme, though, so if you crush your garlic and immediately throw it into the pan, little allicin may be produced. But since allicin is relatively heat stable, you can chop your garlic, wait 10 minutes for the allicin to be formed, and then cook it (the enzyme has already done its work), presumably maintaining many of the benefits.

But what about other vegetables? Which are the gentlest cooking methods for preserving nutrients and which vegetables have more antioxidants cooked than raw? Find out in my NutritionFacts.org video pick featured above.

How can certain vegetables become more nutritious when cooked? Because it’s not what we eat, it’s what we absorb, and there are certain phytonutrients that are absorbed better from cooked foods. For more on this, see my videos Raw Food Nutrient Absorption and Raw Food Diet Myths. And thank you, everyone, for welcoming me so kindly into the Care2 community.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: foreverdigital / Flickr

Related:
#1 Anticancer Vegetable
Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods
Paula Deenís Diabetes: A Deep-Fried Drug Endorsement

Read more: Cancer, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Food, General Health, Health, Household Hints, Raw, Videos, Videos, Videos, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

117 comments

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12:15AM PST on Feb 9, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

7:40AM PST on Jan 10, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

11:17AM PST on Dec 20, 2012

This was actually very useful and extremely informative. Thank you Dr. Greger.

10:30AM PST on Dec 20, 2012

Good luck getting people behind this one. Though you make some VERY fascinating points, youre going to have to do more zippered mattress cover than bring up a few things that may be different than what weve already heard. What are trying to say here? What do you want us to think? It seems like you cant really get behind a unique thought. Anyway, thats just my opinion.

1:05PM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

Wow! That's was really informative, and I was wrong on everything! Lol thank you!

9:28PM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

thanks

5:28PM PDT on May 16, 2012

nice article

10:08AM PDT on Apr 13, 2012

Thanks for the fantastic tip!

4:17PM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

Stewart, good news: a closed-captioning (and translation) project is underway over at NutritionFacts.org for the deaf/hearing-impaired, and for those who speak languages other than English.

9:42PM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

Awesome information. Now if the guy's voice and way of talking didn't make me want to kill myself this would have been a favorite!

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