Thursday, July 16, 2015

To cook or not to cook, that is the question

By: Jeanette Andrade, PhD, RDN, LDN

As a dietitian, I tend to inform my clients to consume fresh fruits and vegetables. The first question that I get is, “Does this mean I have to eat raw fruits and vegetables?” To which I respond, “No. I mean it is better to consume fresh fruits and vegetables then canned fruits and vegetables that may have added sugars and salt.” The next question I get is, “But doesn’t this mean if I cook my fruits and vegetables I’ll lose all the nutrients in there?” I respond, “Well, how high is your temperature that you are using to cook these foods? How long are you cooking these foods for? How are you cooking these foods (e.g. large amounts of water)? Depending on the temperature, length of time to cook, and method to cook these foods you may lose some nutrients. However, certain nutrients are enhanced when you cook them.” To which I get eyebrows raised or a look like I am from another planet. So, if you are already questioning if what I am saying is true or not, read on to find out the nutrients that are enhanced when cooking certain foods….


What is this? An antioxidant- essentially an antioxidant quenches free radicals (or the bad stuff) found in your body
How is this supposed to help? Lycopene may help reduce the risks for certain cancers (colon, breast) and heart disease, and age-related disorders (cataracts)
Where is this found in? Tomatoes, red carrots, watermelon, papayas, and pink grapefruit
What happens when cooking? At least when you cook tomatoes, 35% more lycopene is available for your body to absorb then when consuming raw, uncooked tomatoes (Subramanian, 2009)


What is this? An antioxidant
How is this supposed to help? Reduce the risk for certain types of cancer (e.g. prostate and colon)
Where is this found in? Bright yellow and orange fruits and vegetables (e.g. sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots) and dark, green leafy vegetables (e.g. kale and spinach)
What happens when cooking? As similar to lycopene, more beta-carotene is bioavailable for the body to absorb when cooking vegetables (Subramanian, 2009)

Vitamin K:

What is this: A fat-soluble vitamin
How is this supposed to help? Helps clot the blood
Where is this found in? Dark-green leafy vegetables and some meat products (e.g. fish, liver, meat, and eggs)
What happens when cooking? Vitamin K is not easily destroyed at high temperatures compared to other water-soluble vitamins (e.g. vitamin C), therefore more is available when cooked than when consumed raw (Sheehan)

All in all, there are many nutrients that are not destroyed by cooking. However, it is important to follow directions to properly cook your fruits and vegetables to retain as many nutrients as possible.


Sheehan, J. Does cooking vegetables decrease the level of vitamin K? SFGate. Retrieved from

Subramanian, S. (2009). Fact or fiction: Raw veggies are healthier than cooked ones. Scientific American. Retrieved from


Post a Comment

About Me

Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness
View my complete profile