It’s one of the most basic tenets of healthy eating: Eat more vegetables. With summer produce hitting the farmer’s markets and grocery store shelves, there’s no better time to add more nutrient-dense and colorful vegetables to your plate. But how can you make sure you’re getting the most of the available health benefits?
While there are plenty of vegetables you can crunch into fresh from the source—think carrots, cucumbers and salad greens—there are also some vegetables that need to be cooked in order to provide your body with the optimal health profile. Here are seven veggies you should take the time to prepare before chowing down.
It won’t harm you to consume asparagus raw, but cooking this thin, stalky vegetable first helps your body absorb more of its cancer-fighting nutrients. Try it classically steamed or sautéed with a little olive oil and lemon juice.
Again, mushrooms can be eaten raw, but you’ll receive more of the potassium-rich benefits if you take the time to sauté, roast or grill them. Plus, mushrooms are an easy and versatile ingredient to add to your favorite homemade pizza, stir-fry or pasta dish for a little extra veggie power.
OK, so it’s probably a stretch to say you should never eat tomatoes raw—they are delicious on top of a sandwich or salad, after all—but your body can absorb more lycopene from cooked tomatoes. Since lycopene is known as a cancer-fighting ingredient, make sure at least some of the tomatoes you eat are stewed up in soup or sauces.
You probably wouldn’t want to eat potatoes raw, but there’s actually a very good reason you shouldn’t. Not only do raw potatoes contain toxins and anti-nutrients that can harm your body, but their uncooked starchiness can also cause digestive discomfort. Instead, boil, bake or roast this vegetable.
Brussels sprouts are another vegetable that can cause gas and bloating if consumed raw. Instead, try tossing in olive oil and a little salt and roasting for improved flavor and easier digestion.
Both of these vegetables can be consumed raw—in fact, broccoli can even have more of a positive nutritional impact when eaten uncooked—but many people struggle to digest these cruciferous veggies in their natural state. Try lightly steaming to retain the liver-cleansing enzymes and allow for easier digestion.
Cooked spinach contains more calcium, iron and magnesium. Even though you probably see it most often as a salad green, try adding wilted spinach to your favorite pasta or as an ingredient in your morning omelet.
Fast food is also something you should eat in moderation. Our new interactive infographic "Scary Fast Food Nutrition Facts" explains why.