Articles for Our Patients ~ Lorraine Lubanski, M.S., RD

Veggies - Better raw or cooked?

Author: Lorraine Lubanski, M.S., RD • Language: ENG

In the past, it was believed that fresh vegetables contained the best nutrition; frozen vegetables were next and canned were least nutritious. However, the latest research by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has shown that this is not always the case.

Vegetables harvested and cooked the same day were once thought to contain the most nutritional value. However, new research tells us that a group of powerful antioxidants called "carotenoids" found in orange, red and yellow vegetables and fruits are best utilized by the body when they are cooked. The cooking breaks down the tough cellular structure and reduces the water content, making the carotenoids more concentrated and powerful to help fight diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Lycopene, a cancer fighting phytochemical (plant chemical), found in tomato products is more readily absorbed and utilized when slightly cooked. Processed tomatoes such as those in paste, sauce and stewed products contain two to ten times more lycopene when compared to fresh tomatoes. Beta carotene, a power antioxident found in carrots and yellow corn is increased when slightly cooked until tenderly crisp. Be careful not to overcook these vegetables as this decreases the amount of carotene, the mineral folate and vitamin C available.

Good news - frozen carrots, corn and red peppers can have as many phytochemicals as fresh. What a time saver! These vegetables can also be steamed or used in dishes such as casseroles and stir-frys and are a great way to boost your daily vegetable servings. A great meal of pasta with marinara sauce served with a salad containing carrots, corn and bell peppers packs a powerful, nutritional punch. However you eat them, know that you are boosting your disease fighting power with five or more vegetables and fruits daily.

For more ways to improve your immune response and disease-fighting power, schedule an appointment with the registered dietitian (RD).

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