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To Cook or Not to Cook: What You Should Eat Raw And Why

When the raw food movement burst onto the scene a while back, plenty of people jumped on the raw wagon in hopes that it would fulfill promises of increased energy, longevity and even beauty. Raw food restaurants started popping up everywhere, offering creative takes on things like veggie burgers, noodleless lasagna and even bread; all plant based... and served room temperature. Since most of us grew up thinking that food needs to be cooked, it can take a little extra thought to craft a beautiful and flavourful raw meal. There is no denying that raw foods do indeed provide extensive health benefits by delivering essential enzymes that would otherwise be destroyed in cooking at temperatures 118 and higher. However, raw doesn’t always mean healthier and in fact, many veggies are better digested and their nutrients better absorbed when cooked. Of course, don’t go nuking your broccoli into baby food, and as a general rule boiling should be avoided because it tends to destroy and dilute nutritional value. So go for a light steam, an oven roast or stovetop grill instead–and let the heat unlock your food’s full potential.

Check out our cheat sheet below for the Do’s and Don’ts of which veggies to cook, which not to cook, and why. We hope this list inspires you to revisit some of your favorites in a new way...



Cooking this fungal favorite makes their potassium more bioavailable, great for building muscles.


Rich in vitamin C, biotin, and other minerals  tomatoes are a powerhouse fruit. To benefit from their high amounts of the antioxidant lycopene, try stewing or blistering on a cast iron skillet.


Known for their beta-carotene that we convert to vitamin A–carrots are awesome for your eyeballs, skin and immune system. But heating them helps to release the good stuff.


Asparagus is a great detoxifier, diuretic and prebiotic, but to bring out it's cancer fighting ferulic acid  give them a light grill or roast.



Bell Peppers

Heating these bright red beauties destroys a ton of their vitamin C. So they're best served raw on a salad, or dipped in hummus.


This all around powerhouse green is loaded with nutritional value and great for bone health. But this peppery leaf is especially known for its cancer fighting and preventing abilities, which are most available when served raw.


Beets are excellent brain food and known to boost libido and energy, but cooking them can reduce their folate content by 25% or more, so try them shredded into a salad or sliced into chips for dipping.


Although consuming raw garlic doesn't sound all that appealing, doing so preserves the essential phytonutrient allicin. So to benefit from garlic's health properties, try using it in a salad dressing, or at the end of a dish rather than the beginning.



Broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collard greens + cabbage

Served raw, you’ll benefit from liver cleansing myrosinase and powerful antioxidants in these cruciferous veggies. But members of the brassica family contain goitrogens that can seriously mess with your thyroid. Luckily, steaming and baking have been shown to keep sulforaphane (one of those helpful antioxidants) in tact. So by lightly cooking these veggies you can still fight cancer, lower blood pressure and improve heart health without threatening your thyroid.


Raw spinach contains oxalic acid that can block iron and calcium absorption in our bodies. Cooking reduces that nasty acid, and also helps us digest important carotenoids in spinach like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. That said, raw spinach offers more folate, vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, and potassium. When in doubt, we opt for wilted, which maximizes the best of this super nutritious leafy green.

Onions (including leeks + scallions)

Onions are most powerful raw because of the phytonutrient allicin, but baked or sautéed will increase anti-inflammatory compound quercetin. So if you can't stomach a raw yellow onion, try topping your sandwich with a milder red onion, or using scallions to garnish a tuna salad or soup.

Natalie Decleve is a bicoastal lifestyle correspondent and coach, specializing in "Inside Out Makeovers." Find her here, here, and here!

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