If you've heard of the raw-food diet, you've probably also heard that raw fruits and vegetables are always better for you. But that's not true. Yes, heat destroys enzymes in foods that make them more easily digestible. But cooking also breaks down fibre, making these foods easier for your body to process. (Imagine trying to chew, much less digest, a raw Brussels sprout.)
Scientists have discovered that cooking even boosts levels of important compounds in some fruits and vegetables.
For instance, ketchup — which contains concentrated tomatoes — has five to six times more lycopene, a cancer-fighting antioxidant, than raw tomatoes do. Heat does rob fresh produce of some nutrients, especially vitamins that dissolve in water. For example, cooking fruits and vegetables tends to reduce their levels of vitamin B6, vitamin C and folate.
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But cooking actually increases the antioxidant levels of some vegetables, such as corn and carrots.
If you like raw produce, crunch away. But don't fear the vegetable steamer.
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