At each meal, half of your plate should be covered with fruits and vegetables, recommends ChooseMyPlate.gov, because these nutrient-rich foods may lower your risk for certain health conditions, such as obesity and heart disease. While eating any vegetables can be beneficial, eating raw vegetables has some additional advantages over cooked vegetables.
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Higher Levels of Heat-Sensitive Nutrients
Eat raw vegetables instead of cooked vegetables, and you'll get more of vitamins A and C. These vitamins are heat-sensitive, meaning high temperatures and longer cooking times degrade or destroy them. If you cook your vegetables in water, you'll also lose some water-soluble vitamins, such as folate and vitamin C, because they leach out into the cooking water.
Both raw and cooked vegetables are associated with a decreased risk for certain types of cancer, but there is more evidence for the benefits of raw vegetables, according to an article published in "Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention" in September 2004. This might be due to losses of beneficial plant chemicals during cooking. For example, raw broccoli contains about three times more of an enzyme called myrosinase, which helps your body get rid of carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances, than cooked broccoli. Raw broccoli and other raw cruciferous vegetables may help lower your risk for bladder cancer, according to another study published in "Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention" in April 2008.
Potential Weight-Loss Benefits
Eating more fruits and vegetables in general is associated with small amounts of weight loss, according to a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in May 2009. Most vegetables are low in energy density, meaning they have relatively few calories per gram of food. Raw vegetables, however, tend to be even lower in energy density than cooked vegetables because they often have a higher water content. Eating vegetables in place of other foods that are higher in energy density, including fatty foods and foods high in sugar, can help you lose weight.
Food Safety Considerations
There is one drawback to eating more raw vegetables: They may be more likely to cause food-borne illnesses. Cooking vegetables can kill many of the organisms that cause these illnesses, so people with compromised immune systems may want to limit their raw vegetable consumption. Washing your produce and keeping it away from utensils and surfaces that have been in contact with raw meat can minimize, but not totally eliminate, the risk of getting food poisoning from raw vegetables.
- Advances in Nutrition: Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables
- Good Housekeeping: 8 Foods That Are More Nutritious Raw
- University of Florida Extension: Eating Defensively: The Nutrition and Food Safety Benefits of Cooked Produce
- Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention: Raw Versus Cooked Vegetables and Cancer Risk
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight
- Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention: Consumption of Raw Cruciferous Vegetables Is Inversely Associated With Bladder Cancer Risk
- Oregon State University Extension: What Counts? Nutrients in Fresh and Preserved Fruits and Vegetables
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Fruit and Vegetable Intakes and Subsequent Changes in Body Weight in European Populations: Results From the Project on Diet, Obesity, and Genes (DiOGenes)