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Raw, Cooked or Frozen Vegetables. What’s best?

At a Cooking Class I taught recently, there were questions about nutrients in vegetables and how they might change if you cook or freeze them. So I am answering with this blog: Raw, Cooked or Frozen Vegetables. What’s best?

I like the way a recent New York Times article talks about it, saying every thing is a trade off, that raw is sometimes better, sometimes worse, that no single way of making your food is better than another. 

They site a small study out of Germany testing a raw food diet. The participants had higher levels of beta carotene but well below average lycopene levels saying that “Cooking breaks down the thick cell walls of many plants, releasing the nutrients stored in them”.

Interesting, huh?

So you probably want to know what nutrients are damaged most from processing and cooking, right?

YES CHEF!

Well, the article says that “Canned peas and carrots lose 85 to 95 percent of their natural Vitamin C. After six months, another study showed that frozen cherries lost as much as 50 percent of anthocyanins, the nutrients found in the dark pigments of fruits and vegetables. Cooking removes about two-thirds of the vitamin C in fresh spinach”.

My issue is that they don’t qualify how much cooking time and don’t even look at the idea that if the vitamins are released into the water, why we can’t add rice to recapture the vitamins from the water.

Researchers at UC Davis, a trusted source for me says that the home cook can loose around 50% of plant nutrients with over cooking yet “vitamin C levels often are higher in frozen produce compared with fresh produce, likely because vitamin C levels can degrade during the storage and transport of fresh produce”. So while I have always been taught that you loose 25% of your nutrients when eating something frozen, if you look at it this way, it’s an entirely new game!

To grab bits and pieces from this article I read, which I really like because they quote good sources, The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry says “that over all, boiling was better for carrots, zucchini and broccoli than steaming, frying or serving them raw. Frying vegetables was by far the worst method for preserving nutrients”.

They go on to say: “Boiling carrots, for instance, significantly increases measurable carotenoid levels compared with raw carrots. However, raw carrots have far more polyphenols, which disappear once you start cooking them”. And you know that polyphenols are basically antioxidants found in plants, right?

YES CHEF!

Good. I think the article I’ve read and re-stated for you spells it out accurately when they say there’s no one way to cook vegetables. Feel free to use this info as a jumping off point in your decision making of what to cook and what to eat raw.

And feel free to reach out with more info I haven’t provided and guest blog right here on ChefMarian.com!

Healthy Happy Eating,

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