Raw vs. Cooked - Which Contains More Vitamins and Minerals?
Let’s finally put an end to the debate of raw vs. cooked.
Of course, in the grand scheme of a well-balanced, nutrient-dense, varied, whole foods diet, the cooked vs. raw debate isn't that critical for most people.
This becomes a bigger deal for vitamin and mineral deficiencies (or "insufficiency"). So if you are rocking some digestion or absorption issues, or avoidance of certain foods (due to allergies, intolerance's, or choice), you need to give this some attention.
Like most things nutrition – the answer isn’t simple. I wish I could say "raw is always better" or "cooked is always better." But really if I am wishing for things, it would be that salt and pepper Lays were made my hair grow long and my ass stay "toit".
As with most nutrition science, the cooked vs raw debate depends on several factors. Some vitamins are destroyed in cooking, while others become easier to absorb (a.k.a. more "bioavailable").
Here is the skinny on vitamins and minerals in raw foods versus cooked foods.
EAT 'EM RAW
As a general rule, water soluble nutrients, like vitamin C and the B vitamins, found mostly in fruits and vegetables, are best eaten raw.
When these delicate nutrients are heated, they degrade; this is from any heat, be it steaming, boiling, roasting, or frying. Luckily, it’s easy to get Vitamins C and B in their raw form (like chowing down on an awesome salad). You can also cook them for a short amount of time, by quickly steaming or blanching them. This makes foods like broccoli a lot easier on some people’s tender tummies but still retains most of those water soluble nutrients.
Fun fact: Raw spinach can contain three times the amount of vitamin C as cooked spinach.
The loss of nutrients is greater when cooked in water – as the nutrients being water soluble end up in the water instead of the food.
Of course, if you’re a savvy health nut, you’ll probably keep that liquid to use in your next soup or sauce to preserve those nutrients that are left after cooking. Just don’t overheat it or you may lose what you were aiming to keep.
But, how much loss are we talking about? Well, of course, it ranges but can go from as low as 15%, up to over 50%.
EAT 'EM COOKED
Cooking certain orange and red “beta-carotene rich” veggies (e.g. tomatoes, carrots, & sweet potatoes) can help make this pre-vitamin A compound more absorbable. Of course, eating your fat-soluble vitamins with a bit of fat will help you to absorb more of them, so that’s one factor to consider.
Fun fact: One study found that absorption of beta-carotene was 6.5 times greater in stir-fried carrots than in raw carrots! Bring on the soy sauce!
You can check out my recipe for Golden Milk, here. Take note of the coconut oil that is in there specifically to help with the absorption of the turmeric.
EAT 'EM BOTH WAYS
And I’m not just saying this to get everyone to eat it any way possible (although, I would love for this to happen).
Spinach contains so many beneficial compounds that it's great eaten both raw and cooked.
Eating raw spinach preserves the water-soluble vitamins C & the B vitamins.
Eating spinach cooked allows the pre-vitamin A, as well as some of the minerals like iron to be better absorbed. Not to mention how much spinach reduces in size when it’s cooked, so it’s easier to eat way more cooked spinach than raw spinach.
EAT 'EM SOAKED
Regarding raw nuts, seeds and beans, it is best to soak them. Soaking nuts and seeds (for several hours at room temperature) allows some of the minerals to become "unlocked" from their chemical structure, so they're more absorbable.
Soaking also breaks down the lectin in these foods which can block absorption of many of their nutrients. Lectin is also one of the culprits that gives power to the ole’ dutch oven – if you know what I mean.
The old nutrition philosophy of making sure you get a lot of nutrient-dense whole foods into your diet holds true. Feel free to mix up how you eat them, whether you prefer raw or cooked just make sure you eat them.
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 bag baby spinach leaves
1 dash salt
1 dash black pepper
1. In a large cast iron pan heat olive oil.
2. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.
3. Add spinach, salt, pepper and toss with garlic and oil.
4. Cover pan and cook on low for about 2 minutes.
5. Saute cook spinach for another minute, stirring frequently, until all the spinach is wilted.
6. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on top.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Enjoying the cooked spinach with the vitamin C in the “raw” lemon juice helps your body absorb more of the iron. PLUS, cooking in a cast iron pan adds even more iron to your meal!