Cooked vs. raw: A veggie-by-veggie guide to what method provides more nutrients

When we make the decision to eat vegetables, we do so for the nutritional benefits, right? 

Preparing food the way we like it best is so subjective — runny versus firm eggs; chilled versus room-temperature cheeses; rare versus well-done beef, for example. Likewise, there is no easy answer for how to prepare vegetables — raw or cooked — for maximum nutrition. In short, some vegetables are more nutritious when cooked, while others are better raw.

Let’s end the cooked versus raw battle by breaking it down for several veggies:

  • Broccoli is best eaten raw because it preserves an enzyme that clears out carcinogens from the liver.
  • The cancer-fighting nutrients in asparagus come out when the vegetable is cooked.

  • Cooking mushrooms will bring out the potassium and antioxidants in them.
  • Cooked carrots offer more antioxidants than when they’re eaten raw.
  • Beets lose 25% of their folate, which is a brain compound, when they are cooked so it’s best to eat them raw.
  • Raw is the best way to keep the vitamin C found in red peppers.
  • Cooking spinach, cabbage or kale helps our bodies better absorb the calcium, iron and magnesium in the greens.
  • Our bodies absorb more lycopene, which is a cancer-fighting chemical pigment, when tomatoes are cooked.

This list is helpful if you need one nutrient more than another, but keep in mind that your decision to eat healthy by consuming more vegetables still has more benefits than not doing so, whether you choose to cook them or not.