Greens make an important part of your muscle building diet.
But does cooking vegetables remove nutrients?
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One friend told me that there is no point eating vegetables unless I am eating them completely raw, unmodified, out of the ground – because cooking them removes all of the nutrients.
How true is this and, if so, why isn’t the whole world doing it?!”
Before we get stuck in to today’s topic, let me address one issue – we all have that one friend.
“Bro, you need to start eating all vegetables raw, like a caveman.”
Because that’s what we were meant to be, right?
In that case, I should also go cancel my TiVo subscription and and go live in the wild.
You still buy your chicken from Tesco, so stop with all the caveman references.
Because, let’s face it, the confusion surrounding nutrition is bad enough already.
Everywhere they look, people are being given contradictory advice on what not to eat and all this really does is turn thousands of people away from fitness because they deem it to be too damn confusing.
You may have only wanted to lose a few pounds, but before you know it you’re being told that you need to live on a farm, surrounding by animals you’ve raised yourself, eating eggs the second they pop out of the chicken’s ass in order to avoid any unnatural contamination.
And now it’s gotten so bad that the one thing you though you could always count on – good old fruit and vegetables – are even being questioned.
Does Cooking Vegetables Remove Nutrients?
Cooking your vegetables and eating them raw are both beneficial and to maximize results you should do both.
The myth that heat removes all nutritional values is little more than broscience.
In fact, a 2008 study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that subjects sticking to a long-term, strict raw food diet experienced well below average levels of plasma lycopene – the antioxidant that is widely thought to protect against certain types of cancer. (1, 2)
It is definitely true that cooking veggies alters their composition, but that is not always a bad thing.
It’s more about how you cook them – obviously, methods such as frying are always a bad choice – and what type of vegetable we’re talking about.
One interesting factor regarding lycopene is that fresh, uncooked tomatoes contain lower levels than processed, cooked ones.
That’s because many plants have thick cell walls which are broken down thanks to the cooking process, releasing the nutrients for us.
So like I said above – there are benefits to both approaches!
Another study from the University of California showed that certain methods of cooking frozen vegetables reduced vitamin C content by figures ranging from 15% to 55% depending upon the method. The study also interestingly pointed out that the initial vitamin C content of frozen veggies was significantly higher than fresh – thought to be because of the degradation which takes place during transportation and storage of fresh produce.
So even though you may reduce vitamin C content through cooking, you’re starting from a much higher base point providing you went with frozen, making any actual difference irrelevant. (3)
And here’s yet another reason that taking a varied approach to your veggies is best. A further study from the Journal of Food Science looked at the effects of health-promoting nutrient preservation in broccoli under several different types of cooking method.
Surprisingly, they found that microwaving broccoli actually retained 90% of it’s Vitamin C content. (4)
Yeah, the same microwave that your local “wellbeing expert” claims was made by Satan himself as they try to sell you their latest detox pack.
Like I said, everything has it’s uses!
On the reverse side, many of the nutrients can get leached when cooking veggies in water.
The important factor here is looking into how long you cook them for and how much water you’re using.
The optimal method here is blanching – quickly cooking them in boiling water and removing them when still quite crispy- as this will preserve the color and nutrients.
There You Have It
So, does cooking vegetables remove the nutrients?
Many people will have you believe otherwise, but that’s where science and a balanced approach comes in.
Fitness does not need to be this complicated.
Some vegetables – carrots, broccoli – taste great raw/uncooked, but others do not, and the best diet is the one you can stick to, so there is little point subjecting yourself to something you find disgusting.
And if you’re being told that cooking a carrot renders it useless, well, this is the type of bullshit fitness advice that drives people to think “If even a carrot is bad for me, what’s the point?!”
Dieting is a minefield of misinformation, and if you start buying into all the nonsense claims out there it can really drive you crazy!
For instance, it’s not uncommon to hear “you must go raw vegan” if you look into any of the trendy juice diets currently featured in the pages of women’s magazine.
It’s one of the main things they pitch you on their sales package.
Coincidentally, the person saying it to you also has an instant answer – buy their package and you’ll be just fine, you won’t have to eat disgusting raw turnips, because their product contains “all the goodness you’ll need”..
Instead, just take a balanced approach for maximum results all round and remember that everything – and I mean motherfucking everything – is fine in moderation.
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1. Garcia, A. L., et al. “Long-Term Strict Raw Food Diet Is Associated With Favourable Plasma Beta-Carotene And Low Plasma Lycopene Concentrations In Germans.” J Nutr 2008 Jun;99(6):1293-300.
2. Rao, A. V., et al. “Role Of Antioxidant Lycopene In Cancer And Heart Disease.” J Am Coll Nutr 2000 Oct;19(5):563-9.
3. Rickman, J. C., et al. “Nutritional Comparison Of Fresh, Frozen And Canned Fruits And Vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C And B And Phenolic Compounds.” J Sci Food Agric 87:930–944 (2007).
4. Galgano, F., et al. “The Influence Of Processing And Preservation On The Retention Of Health-Promoting Compounds In Broccoli.” J Food Sci March 2007 volume 72, issue 2, pages S130–S135, DOI: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2006.00258.