The raw deal on cooked vegetables! In a recent column, you wrote that tomatoes are more nutritious when cooked. But I also know some foods lose nutrients with heat. I want to give my family the healthiest meals possible. Which produce should I cook, and which is better raw?
Good question! Heat does make some nutrients, like the lycopene in tomatoes and the beta-carotene in corn and carrots, more bioavailable. But heat reduces the bacteria-fighting nutrient allicin in garlic and onions, so eat those raw or add them as late as possible to the dish you’re cooking. A general rule of thumb for veggies: Steam rather than boil them since too much water draws out up to 50 percent of water-soluble nutrients like vitamins B and C. The optimal ratio: 1⁄2 cup of water to 2 cups of vegetables. And when possible, cut vegetables into large chunks since nutrients leach out faster from small pieces due to increased surface area.