Thursday, December 9, 2010

Raw or Cooked?

A steamer may be your most strategic piece of cookware in the kitchen. A leading nutritionist writes that certain vegetables are best if they are steamed rather than eaten raw.

"Cooking your vegetables can actually boost their antioxidant content. Heating vegetables releases antioxidants by breaking down cell walls. Studies have found that eating cooked spinach and carrots – versus raw – results in much higher blood levels of beta-carotene, an antioxidant thought to guard against heart disease and lung cancer. You’ll also get more lutein, a phytochemical that helps prevent cataract and macular degeneration, if you eat your spinach cooked instead of raw."

"And when it comes to certain minerals, you’re also better off eating your spinach cooked. Green vegetables such as spinach, beet greens and Swiss chard are high in calcium, but their high levels of a compound called oxalic acid binds calcium and reduce its absorption. Cooking releases some of the calcium that’s bound to oxalic acid. Three cups of raw spinach, for example, have 90 milligrams of calcium, whereas one cup of cooked has nearly triple the amount (259 milligrams). Cooking vegetables also increases the amount of magnesium and iron that’s available to the body."

Moreover, some vegetables are healthier when eaten raw or lightly steamed. "Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy and kale contain glucosinolates that are converted to anti-cancer compounds called isothiocyanates when they are chopped or chewed." Light steaming keeps many of the nutrients in tact.

I am reminded of Popeye, the sailor man who had the foresight of eating cases of cooked spinach!