As adults, we strive to find the most nutritious and delicious way to eat our fruits and vegetables. Or, we will probably avoid this. Therein lies the billion dollar scientific question: what is a healthier way to prepare vegetables? And what improves gut health?
Some diets favor the natural, raw version. And others by boiling, steaming, microwave or roast. Even the most stubborn anti-veg eaters eat fried. The question is which is more nutritious and which is better for our intestinal health? A recent study has scientists revealing how cooked foods are better for gut health than raw foods.
Vegetable preparation can also be diverse. As the study of nutrition has deepened, the importance of the way food is prepared has acquired a more important role. You'll be glad to know that each method has its pros and cons, but the veggie is still amazing!
COOKING METHODS AND THEIR EFFECT ON FOOD
Before we start with the cooking methods, let's examine the consumption of raw vegetables instead of cooked ones. A study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2008. The study included 198 candidates who started a diet, eating 95% raw foods, mainly fruits. The results showed an increase in beta-carotene but a decrease in lycopene levels.
A 2009 study showed that each cooking method decreased certain levels of antioxidants in several vegetables while increasing them in others.
When it comes to retaining nutrition, fat-soluble vitamins A, K, D, and E kept more water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C. Also, vitamin C is one of the worst at retaining its potency when cooking. Fortunately, you can get a lot of vitamin C from fruits, which are best eaten raw anyway.
A definite advantage of cooking vegetables is that it decreases their mass by reducing their water content. Why is this good? It condenses the amount, so you are eating more vegetables when cooked than raw. Just think of the spinach. You can taste and eat a bag of spinach in a salad, or you can cook it in a plain mug.
Regardless of the method, consuming vegetables improves gut health.
FOODS: BOILING, WHITENING OR STEAMING
Blanching vegetables: the process of boiling water, dropping vegetables for a moment until they start to change color, and then taking them out. This process is primarily used to allow fresh vegetables to freeze for later use. It also eliminates the food of tannic acid and phytic acid.
Boiling vegetables: process of boiling water and cooling the vegetables to the desired tenderness. Whether in a pot or a slow cooker, the result is the same. Results in the most significant loss of antioxidants and nutrients of 15-25%.
The good news is that it also results in the most extensive loss of antinutrients, such as goiter. Goitrogen is found in kale and broccoli. It is also responsible for potentially infuriating thyroid conditions. Another chemical released is oxalates, a common cause of kidney stones.
The loss of nutrients during boiling is not true for all vegetables. Carrots, for example, actually increased in antioxidants after boiling. Vitamin A is also retained better by boiling than by frying, sun drying, or fermenting.
Boiling also makes it easier for people with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), or other intestinal disorders to digest vegetables, as they have a hard time with fibrous foods.
Steamed vegetables: Place the vegetables in a sieve-like container over boiling water and allow the steam to cook the vegetables. It is a great way to preserve nutrients and antioxidants. Some advise adding a little oil to fat-soluble vegetables to improve their absorption of nutrients.
ROAST, BAKE OR MICROWAVE
Roasting or baking: process of cooking vegetables in the oven at a high temperature, usually with a little oil to prevent them from sticking. This method was found to preserve the nutritional value and antioxidants very highly.
Vegetables in the microwave: place the vegetables in a container and cook them in the microwave. Cooking vegetables in the microwave has gotten a bad rap for no reason. The microwave proved to be very good at retaining nutritional value and antioxidants. The main vegetable that suffered greatly from the microwave is cauliflower. In fact, it loses almost 50% of its nutrients, which could decrease the benefits for gut health.
While there are better ways to prepare vegetables, the main thing to keep in mind is:
- Looking to increase antioxidants specifically or primarily nutritional value?
- Do you have specific digestive or thyroid issues that make the method more critical?
- Could you eat several prepared vegetables throughout the week and balance the losses?
- Will you eat the vegetables prepared that way? If not, who cares. Just eat your veggies!
RETAINING MICROBES IN THE KITCHEN CAN AMPLIFY INTESTINAL HEALTH
A recent study at UC San Francisco and Harvard examined the effect of cooking versus eating raw food to analyze the behavior of healthy microbes or bacteria in our gut. This study is one of the first to address this bias. The experiment began with rats. The scientists decided to feed the rats lean beef and sweet potatoes both raw and cooked. Surprisingly, there was no change in raw versus cooked meat. Sweet potatoes showed a surprising difference.
The study showed that raw sweet potatoes showed damage to gut bacteria. Some evidence showed a change in the way carbohydrates were metabolized and certain compounds that are generally destroyed in the cooking process, preventing this from happening.
The scientists continued the experiment with white potatoes, corn, peas, carrots, and beets. Each vegetable had a different reaction from the other with respect to being cooked or raw and the effect on gut bacteria. Starchy vegetables had the most significant changes, while beets and carrots didn't make much of a difference.
The scientists then moved on to run a small study with people. For three days, some people ate cooked and raw food in a similar way. They provided stool samples during this time. Amazingly, even in such a short time, they documented a difference. However, the results for humans differed from rats.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON HOW COOKED FOOD IS BETTER FOR YOUR INTESTINAL HEALTH THAN RAW FOOD
It will be interesting to see more information in the future on how our cooking methods can alter the response of our gut bacteria. For those with digestive problems, this could be a significant idea of better eating methods to alleviate symptoms. I'm sure a continuation of the study in the future will include if that's what impacts the nutritional value or the antioxidant value during digestion. For now, we must remain fascinated by the fact that scientists have revealed how cooked foods are better for our gut health.