By David Crocker
Diet and exercise
The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) once recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. U.S. guidelines no longer use grams, or servings to define how much produce folks should eat each day. The recommendation now, is between 1-1/2 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 2-1/2 cups of vegetables per day, depending on age and gender.
We all know we should eat our fruits and vegetables, and the “raw food diet” has definitely generated much popularity in recent years, mainly due to the fact that some naturally occurring nutrients can be destroyed during the cooking process. However, did you know that some vegetables are actually very healthful once cooked? That’s right! Here are a few.
Asparagus is a highly nutritious vegetable that can be eaten cooked, or raw. It contains cancer-fighting vitamins A, C and E.
One 2009 study published in the International Journal of Food Science & Technology showed that cooking asparagus boosted its antioxidant capacity by 16 to 25%. Yet another study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences revealed cooking asparagus increased its levels of “phenolic acid”, which is also associated with a decreased risk of cancer.
Although tomatoes lose some vitamin C when cooked, a 2002 study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found cooked tomatoes, and tomato products supply significantly higher levels of lycopene than raw ones. Lycopene is the bright red carotenoid that lends color to tomatoes, watermelon, red carrots, grapefruit and papayas. This nutrient is a powerful antioxidant with many healthful benefits, including sun protection, improved heart health, and a lower risk of certain types of cancers. Lycopene is absorbed by the body more effectively when consumed with healthful fats, so I recommend pairing cooked tomatoes with olives, olive oil, canola, safflower or sunflower oil.
Technically speaking, mushrooms aren’t actually a true fruit or vegetable. They are classified under the kingdom “Fungi”, whereas plants are classified under the kingdom “Plantae”. However, for purposes of discussion we’ll refer to them as vegetables, because mushrooms are packed with antioxidants and other valuable nutrients. Studies show, exposing mushrooms to heat (cooking), greatly enhances their overall antioxidant effectiveness. Also, cooked mushrooms have higher levels of potassium, niacin and zinc, than raw ones.
Carrots are a rich source of beta-carotene, a “carotenoid” the body converts into vitamin A, which plays a key role in supporting bone health, enhancing vision and keeping the immune system strong. Cooking carrots actually boosts their beta-carotene levels.
A 2009 study in the Journal of Food Science found that cooking carrots with their skins on can triple their overall antioxidant power.
Ever notice when greens are cooked, they shrink? That can be great, because you might eat more and consuming more spinach means you’ll benefit additionally from its nutrients.
A 2005 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that steaming spinach can also reduce its oxalic acid, which interferes with the body’s iron and calcium absorption, by up to 53%. Plus steaming ensures that spinach retains levels of folate, a B vitamin that can reduce risks of certain cancers and plays a crucial role in the production of DNA, the body’s genetic material.
Vegetables are generally good sources of vitamin C, but this vitamin is sensitive to heat, light and air. Other vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E and K, are fat soluble, which means cooking vegetables containing these nutrients in oils, breaks their nutrient compounds down. I recommend consuming both raw and cooked vegetables to benefit from the nutrients they provide.
Also, when eating fruits or vegetables, chew, chew, chew, even more than you think you should. Plant cells, like fruits and vegetables are surrounded by cell walls. These cell walls are made up of something called “cellulose”, which is microscopically like bits of wood, that we don’t digest very well. By chewing longer, we break open more of these fruit and vegetable cells and retrieve the nutrients inside. Questions? Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org