Do Vegetables Lose Nutrients When Cooked?

Remember when I went through my raw vegan phase? It lasted a whole summer and I loved it…but I missed having to watch the temperature to make sure that my “pizza” didn’t heat up too much. Not to mention that eating a a raw vegan can be super, super expensive.

I mean, I was eating a ton of produce. And sure it’s good for you…but is it necessary?

I mean, one of the arguments that raw vegans use is that fruits and vegetables actually lose nutrients when cooked…but do they?

I’d totally forgotten about this debate (it’s been a few years, y’all), and then I downloaded a new Kindle book. And it all came rushing back.

Have you ever gotten those free Kindle books on Amazon? Well, I downloaded one not too long ago. I think it was the picture on the front.

I downloaded it before I realized that it was another raw food cookbook.

The author advocated for eating everything raw. It brought back a whole lot of feelings that I’d totally forgotten about, and again I wondered “do vegetables lose nutrients when cooked?”

So I started to Google (remember when that wasn’t a verb?!).

What I found surprised me. The answer isn’t as simple as “raw is always better” or “cooked is always better.”

As with most things, whether you eat your veggies in the raw or boil them depends on several factors.

Yes, some vitamins are destroyed in cooking, but others become easier to absorb.

Obviously, in the grand scheme of a well-balanced, nutrient-dense, varied, whole foods diet (say that 10 times fast!!) the cooked vs. raw debate isn’t super critical for most people. But before you decide what you should do, let me share what I learned.

do vegetables lose nutrients when cooked

Vitamin C (and B)

As a general rule, water-soluble nutrients (think C and B vitamins) are best eaten raw. These vitamins are found primarily in fruits and veggies that you already eat raw, like apples, oranges, carrots, and bananas.

When these water-soluble vitamins are heated beyond 115 degrees Fahrenheit, they begin to lose their nutrition.

Remember that Vitamin C and the B vitamins are a bit more “delicate” and susceptible to heat than many other nutrients. So, in this case, when you cook the food, you lose some of their vitamins.

To make sure you get enough B and C vitamins, eat raw oranges, spinach, strawberries, and grapefruit.

One more thing…

C and the B vitamins are water-soluble.  So, guess where the vitamins go when they’re cooked in water? So just eat those oranges raw.

Soaking Nuts (and Seeds)

You’ve probably heard people tell you to soak your raw nuts and seeds to “unlock their potential.”

Turns out they may be right. Soaking nuts and seeds in distilled water for several hours at room temperature allows some of the minerals to become “unlocked” from their chemical structure.

This means that your body will have an easier time absorbing them. Plus, if you’re making kale chips, you’ll want to soak your cashews (I know, I know) beforehand to make them easier to blend.

When to Cook Your Veggies

Not surprisingly, just like some things are easier absorbed in thier raw state, other vitamins and minerals are easier for your body to use when they’ve been cooked.

Cooking red and orange vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, and sweet potatoes helps make their pre-vitamin A compound more absorbable. 

In fact, one study found that absorption of beta-carotene was 6.5 times greater in stir-fried carrots than in raw carrots!

A Note About Spinach

Spinach is one vegetable that can go either way. No, really!

Eating raw spinach preserves the water-soluble vitamins C & the B vitamins while eating cooked spinach allows the pre-vitamin A and iron to be more easily absorbed by your body.

If you’re not a spinach lover, add it to your raw smoothies and to your cooked soups to max out on its awesome benefits.

When I finished my research I realized that I naturally do these things anyway. I’m not a fan of warm oranges, and I eat raw carrots for a snack or as part of my awesome noodle-free chicken soup.

I guess the answer to my question is both yes AND no. Funny how that works out sometimes.

Do vegetables lose nutrients when cooked?

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