Raw v. cooked

Let’s finally put an end to the debate of raw vs. cooked. Which contains the most

vitamins and minerals?

Of course, in the grand scheme of a well-balanced, nutrient-dense, varied, whole foods diet, the cooked vs. raw debate isn't that critical for most people.

This can become important when there are deficiencies. These may be due to digestion or absorption issues, or avoidance of certain foods (due to allergies, intolerances, or choice).

The answer isn't as simple as "raw is always better" or "cooked is always better." As with most nutrition science, it depends on several factors. Some vitamins are destroyed in cooking, while others become easier to absorb. Let's take a look.

Foods to eat raw:

As a general rule, water soluble nutrients, like vitamin C and the B vitamins, found mostly in fruits and vegetables, are best eaten raw. The reason why is two-fold.

First, when these nutrients are heated, they tend to degrade; this is from any heat, be it steaming, boiling, roasting, or frying. Vitamin C and the B vitamins are a bit more "delicate" and susceptible to heat than many other nutrients.

Of course, the obvious way to combat these nutrient losses is to eat high vitamin C and B containing foods in their raw form (salad) or to cook them for as short a time as possible (quickly steaming or blanching).

Fun fact: Raw spinach can contain three times the amount of vitamin C as cooked spinach.

The second reason why foods high in vitamin C and the B vitamins are best eaten raw is that they're "water soluble." So, guess where the vitamins go when they're cooked in water? Yes, they're dissolved right into the water; this is particularly true for fruits and veggies that are boiled and poached but even for foods that steamed as well.

Of course, savvy chef, you’ll probably keep that liquid to use in your next soup or sauce to preserve those nutrients that are left after cooking. Just don’t overheat it or you may lose what you were aiming to keep.