There are the people who eat raw vegetables and like it. Then there’s the group that like their vegetables cooked and hiding in a stir-fry or blended in a smoothie (I’m part of the latter group). But did you know that certain vegetables will provide more nutrients for you when they’re eaten raw, and gasp, some will provide more when they’re cooked? The common perception is that raw vegetables provide the maximum nutrition because cooking causes all the good stuff to leach out.

Different cooking methods can impact nutrient retention of vegetables. In general, using small amounts of water and low heat will preserve the nutritional quality of most vegetables. For this reason, steaming and blanching is recommended over boiling because nutrients are usually lost in the cooking water this way. Pro tip: soups and stews are a great way to retain the good stuff that seeps into the cooking water when boiling7 !

Consider cooking these:

  1. Carrots – Cooking carrots increase their antioxidant levels1
  2. Asparagus – A study done in 2009 shows that cooking asparagus significantly increases total antioxidant activity2
  3. Tomatoes – cooking tomatoes will increase lycopene levels, which is the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their rosy colour and may help help lower risk for heart disease3
  4. Mushrooms – cooking mushrooms will increase potassium, niacin, zinc and magnesium AND will also destroy the trace amounts of toxins that are present in even edible mushrooms4
  5. Spinach – cooking this bad boy will allow your body to absorb more calcium, iron and magnesium because the high temperatures break down something called oxalic acid which, when eaten, will block your body from absorbing as much of the good stuff4

Try eating these au natural because heat will break down some of their nutrients:

  1. Broccoli – myrosinase, an enzyme which converts glucosinolate (a phytochemical), is destroyed by heat, thereby inhibiting production of active compounds that have shown to be protective against certain types of cancers5
  2. Watercress – the same as the process for broccoli5 – try these greens on a sandwich or a salad!
  3. Onions – research suggests that for maximum health benefits, eat onions raw or just moderately cooked6
  4. Red peppers – cooking will lower the amount of vitamin C available

Don’t feel overwhelmed. If you like to eat vegetables a certain way, then by all means – keep doing it! Vegetables are good for you. Period. But maybe, just maybe, you can give it a go and try them prepared another way.

Jane Skapinker

Registered Dietitian


  1. University of Arkansas. (2000). Cook your carrots for more antioxidants, university of arkansas researchers say. In University of Arkansas. Retrieved from
  2. Fanasca, S., Rouphael, Y., Venneria, E., Azzini, E., Durazzo, A., & Maiani, G. (2009). Antioxidant properties of raw and cooked spears of green asparagus cultivars. International Journal of Food Science & Technology, 44(5), 1017-1023. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2621.2008.01871.x
  3. Dietitians of Canada. (2015). All about canned tomatoes. In Eat right Ontario. Retrieved from
  4. Perry, S. (2015). Cook these healthy vegetables you’ll get more nutrition in every bite. In Retrieved from
  5. Beck, L. (2014). Tasty ways to eat more cruciferous vegetables. In Leslie Beck nutrition counseling inc. Retrieved from
  6. Cavagnaro, P. F., Sance, M. M., & Galmarini, C. R. (2007). Effect of heating on onion (allium cepa L.) antiplatelet activity and pungency sensory perception. Food Science and Technology International, 13(6), 447-453. doi:10.1177/1082013207088108
  7. Dietitians of Canada. (2011). How to get the most nutrients from the foods you eat. In Eat Right Ontario. Retrieved from

Monday, October 16, 2017 in
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