You probably already know that a ripe, red apple is a much healthier choice than a sugar-filled piece of chocolate cake. That much is common sense, and for some people it’s enough to keep them on track with maintaining a healthy diet.
But for those who may be looking to take their health to the next level, understanding the best ways to prepare certain foods is key to maximizing their nutritional benefits. With certain foods, baking, boiling, steaming, grilling, or roasting them supercharges their nutritional contents so your body can take in more.
On the contrary, cooking other foods does the opposite – making it much more difficult for your body to absorb the vitamins and minerals compared to eating them raw. While some veggies might seem tastier (and easier to chew) after they’ve been roasted with some olive oil and sprinkled with a bit of seasoning, you could be sacrificing nutrition for taste without even realizing it.
Take a look through the following list of foods to find out which ones are better to eat raw and why, with links to delicious recipes you can try for each one!
The red beet root may be a vegetable with high sugar content, but its nutritional properties completely make up for it. Beets are high in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, manganese, and the B vitamin folate, which offers a range of health benefits that can boost your immune system, improve your stamina, fight inflammation, lower your blood pressure, and even prevent cancer.
When you cook beets they can lose as much as 25 percent of their folate (a healthy brain compound that helps reduce the risk of birth defects during fetal development). It may take some time getting used to munching on beets in their raw state, so try this mixed salad made with raw beets, carrots, apples, and ginger lime dressing for a nice added flavor.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that should be a top item on your grocery list. With a seemingly endless offering of nutritional benefits, this superstar veggie is not only packed with vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and protein… it also contains sulforaphane – a compound found to fight cancer cells, lower blood pressure, improve heart health, and provide antioxidants that help with anti-aging and immunity.
According to a study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, people who consumed broccoli raw absorbed sulforaphane more quickly and in higher amounts compared to people who consumed it cooked. Try this incredibly simple and delicious raw broccoli soup recipe for something different than the typical raw broccoli salad.
Believe it or not, the same stuff that makes you tear up when you cut onions is the same stuff you want to consume more of to improve your health. Called allicin, this phytonutrient helps curb hunger, prevent cancer, promote cardiovascular health, and reduce high blood pressure. You get more of it when you eat onions raw as opposed to eating them cooked.
Make sure to include both red and yellow onions for a natural does of quercetin – a bioflavonoid that has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties to help you fight off all sorts of nasty viruses, including the common cold. Try them with this raw onion wraps recipe.
4. Red Bell Peppers
Citrus fruits are often what first comes to mind when you think of vitamin C, but red bell peppers should be right there with those oranges, lemons, and limes. With nearly three times the vitamin C intake you need for the day, red bell peppers are also a powerful antioxidant and a great source of vitamin B6, vitamin E, and magnesium.
You may be able to get away with cooking your red bell peppers for a short time over low heat which will still maintain their sweetness, but be aware that roasting, frying, or grilling them at a temperature over 375 degrees Fahrenheit will cause their vitamin C properties to break down. Eat them raw for their full nutritional benefits. Take a look at this amazing stuffed raw pepper recipe with confetti guacamole.
Although higher in calories compared to most other health foods, nuts are a primary source of healthy fats that can help you balance your diet. These essential fats actually help you lower your bad cholesterol, reduce your risk of developing blood clots, and promote good artery health.
When it comes to choosing nuts, go for a variety of almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, and other types that haven’t been roasted in oil and have no added salt. Raw nuts are higher in iron, magnesium, and contain no GMO oils. When you need a quick but yummy snack, have this naked raw trail mix recipe on hand to satisfy your craving.
Adding dried berries to some mixed nuts has become a popular food trend for a fast snack that’s both sweet and salty. Unfortunately, dried berries don’t offer the same nutritional benefits as their raw counterparts.
Berries that have been put through a drying process may contain as much as two or three times more sugar in them, increasing their calories and carbohydrates. Because they’ve been dehydrated, they lack certain water-soluble vitamins and minerals that made them so healthy in the first place.
Stick to fresh, raw berries to keep calories low and benefit from their nutritional value. Enjoy fresh or frozen berries for breakfast by trying this lovely looking yogurt parfait recipe.
Coconut deserves an item of its own on this list for all the incredible benefits it has to offer. Drinking raw coconut water in large amounts can replenish fluids arguably better than regular water on its own, and the oil that comes from the coconut meat contains healthy fats that strengthen both the brain and heart.
Skip the coconut-flavored processed stuff like bars, candies, and pastries, which fill your body with too much sugar while offering little nutritional value. Find out how to make coconut butter from raw, shredded coconut for a tasty butter substitute.
Garlic is one of those types of foods that’s almost always consumed cooked. Like onions, garlic contains the phytonutrient allicin, which can be consumed in higher amounts by eaten raw.
A study revealed that raw garlic consumed two or more times a week produced less of a risk for developing lung cancer. You can still certainly benefit from enjoying cooked garlic — you’ll just have to eat more of it if to get the same nutrition it offers in its raw state. If you’re stumped on how to use garlic without cooking it, try this creamy garlic dressing recipe for your salads and veggies.
There are tons of cans and cartons and jugs of juice you can buy directly from the store that promise all sorts of amazing health benefits; but when it comes straight down to it, nothing beats buying the raw ingredients and juicing them yourself. Store bought juices undergo processing that may strip the ingredients of their nutritional value, while also adding in other chemicals, flavors, coloring, sweeteners, and preservatives.
Juicing from raw vegetables and fruits ensures that you’ll get a nutrient dense drink that hydrates, detoxifies, improves digestion, increases energy, and even aids in weight loss. Rather than reaching for the nearest carton at your local grocery store, trying making your own grapefruit strawberry juice from scratch.
Chocolate is truly the Jekyll and Hyde of health foods. Raw cacao is rich in antioxidants, can help lower blood pressure, increases serotonin to boost your mood, and even helps curb cravings – but pump it up with sugar, flour, oils, and other ingredients that turn your cocoa into decadent sugar bombs, and you completely undo the healthy power of this beloved super food.
If you can, try to get your hands on some raw cacao nibs, which are the parts of the cacao bean that are roasted and processed into cocoa. If you’re a total chocoholic, consider trying this chocolate bar recipe made with raw cacao.
How many foods on this list are you already eating raw? Don’t forget to check out the suggested recipes for ideas to get started if you haven’t already. And remember – whether raw or cooked, choosing any of the foods on this list over processed junk will always be better for you, no matter what.