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How Should You Eat Your Veggies?

One reader recently asked me a question in regards to what I think of about published Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s stance on raw foods versus cooked foods, stating that all cooked food is not created equal.

Dr. Fuhrman has written in an article that:

“Raw food advocates mistakenly conclude that since many cooked foods are not healthy for us, then all cooked foods are bad. This is not true.”

In his article, Dr. Fuhrman points out that:

– It is true that high temperature cooking or boiling destroys many nutrients, but more conservative methods preserve many of those nutrients

– Steaming vegetables and making vegetable soups breaks down cellulose and alters the plants’ cell structures so that fewer of your own enzymes are needed to digest the food, not more.

– In the end, Furhman thinks there are no benefits and only negatives from not including cooked greens in your diet, because cooked greens are the most nutrient dense foods. He thinks the ideal diet includes 50% raw vegetables and 50% cooked vegetables.

I tend to agree with Fuhrman’s reasoning as I feel he has a very sound judgement on data that he collects as well as a real solid foundation of nutrition research backing his findings, but I do not necessarily agree with his conclusion here.

It’s true that some nutrients are more easily available after vegetables have been cooked, while others are destroyed or reduced by cooking.

It’s also true that by eating only raw vegetables we’re missing out on a lot of nutrients, since they could be “locked” in the fiber and not always assimilated properly.

The ideal way to get your nutrients would be to eat your vegetables raw and chew the heck out of them! However, due to poor dentition and lack of time, most people are not able to eat enough raw vegetables and chew them well enough, so that they can extract all the nutrients.

And besides, many people find great difficulty in attempting to eat larger amounts of raw vegetables (let alone the amount that some people say you need to eat!), and who wants to spend their time gnawing on a big trough of leaves, and not even enjoying it?

It’s true that cooking breaks down the fiber of vegetables and makes them easier to chew and digest (in some cases). For example, steamed broccoli is a whole lot easier to eat than raw broccoli, and a fair bit more enjoyable too I may add.
But if you cooked all of your vegetables, you’d be missing out on a lot of important nutrients that are damaged by heat. There’s a distinctly different nutritional profile and overall feeling to cooked vegetables and raw vegetables.

I do agree with Dr. Fuhrman in the sense that vegetables (especially green vegetables) are among the healthiest, most health-promoting foods a person could possibly eat, and we all should probably be eating more of them. About one pound of greens per day is great aim or minimum for most people to eat. This abundance of vegetable nutrition is great for anybody, whether they follow a raw food diet or not.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you should probably be eating more vegetables, cooked or raw.

You should also eat your vegetables in a way that your body can totally digest and assimilate them. It doesn’t do you or your body any good at all if you eat a massive pile of leaves and stalks and your body can’t digest 79% of the nutrients in them.

It ends up just turning into expensive, albeit colorful intestinal fiber for people’s body’s.

Which is great and something people should b e having more of as well, but that doesn’t mean you want to count on not digesting the majority of the food you eat.

So digesting your vegetables (and everything you eat) is essential to your wellbeing.

For some people, that may mean steaming their vegetables so that they are easier to chew and digest for them. I personally like to eat cooked vegetables like spinach and broccoli on a regular basis. I find that I enjoy the taste of these vegetables much better when they are cooked, and my body is able to extract the nutrients from them that I take in much more easily.

I’ve had my share of chewing through some monster raw salads! And if you’re somebody who just doesn’t enjoy doing this, or wants to change things up, adding in some steamed vegetables will likely only do good for your health program.

Some of my favorites for steaming include:

– Broccoli
– Carrots
– Kale
– Collard greens
– Asparagus
– Brussels sprouts
– Artichokes

However, my number one, favorite way to eat greens, which is by far the easiest, is to make green smoothies.

By blending greens with fruit into a smoothie, you get the best of both worlds. Your vegetables stay raw and nutrient-dense, yet the blending process makes them easier to digest and assimilate and overall more enjoyable to eat.

If you drink one or two liters (or quarts) of green smoothies every day, you WILL totally transform your health in a matter of weeks or months. It’s that easy to completely change your health regime. Just start adding some more good things in!

So when it coms down to how you should eat your vegetables, do what you enjoy doing and feel good with.

Just keep in mind that if you’ve been getting real bored with all of that raw celery and romaine getting stuck in between the crevices of every single one of your teeth, you may do well to try out some cooked veggies into your diet as well.

It’ll likely do nothing but good for your health and allow your body to access a wider range of nutrients.

What have been your experiences with raw vs. cooked vegetables? Let us know in the comments below!

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets.