We all want to eat more vegetables. Not only are they good for us, at this time of year, when the markets are bulging with piles of luscious-looking fresh vegetables, we are more tempted than usual to buy them.
With few exceptions, homemakers think of cooking vegetables. Steamed carrots, peas, and green beans; sautéed spinach, peppers, and broccoli; or perhaps grilled asparagus and potatoes all have their appeal.
As delicious as veggies are when properly cooked (which means never overcooking them), they are equally good raw. What's more, many nutritionists and health food advocates say that uncooked vegetables contain enzymes, minerals, and other nutrients that are beneficial to our health.
What Are the Benefits?
When vegetables are steamed or boiled, many of their vitamins and minerals leach into the cooking water, which is poured down the drain. This is just one of the reasons why eating vegetables raw is more healthful than eating cooked vegetables.
Some vegetables, in particular dark, leafy greens such as spinach and the cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, are touted as having properties that protect against some cancers and other diseases.
All vegetables are good sources of fiber, which is essential to good health. A diet with enough fiber also protects against colon cancer and associated problems.
Working Raw Vegetables Into Your Diet
Not all vegetables lend themselves to being eaten raw. Those that do, such as carrots, lettuces, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, and radishes, tend to be crispy, sweet, and moist.
Broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash, mushrooms, and snowpeas are also very good raw and often find their way to a crudité platter.
Others, such as beets, cabbage, and sweet potatoes, can be juiced in small amounts. This eliminates the need for cooking them. To juice you need a juicer.
Some veggies, while quite good raw, taste even better when very lightly cooked. This is true for asparagus, green beans, and peas.
Steaming is a good way to cook vegetables just enough so that they are palatable and their fiber softens so that it is easily digestible. With steaming, fewer nutrients leach into the cooking water than with boiling.
Cut veggies into small pieces and plan to steam beets, carrots, turnips, and winter squash for about 45 minutes. Sweet potatoes, broccoli, and parsnips require about 25 minutes. Bell peppers, asparagus, peas, and cauliflower need about 15 minutes to steam until crisp tender, and mushrooms, summer squash, and asparagus tips only need 7 or 8 minutes.
How Many Vegetables Should Be Eaten Raw?
Depending on whom you talk to, anywhere from all to half of the vegetables we eat should be consumed raw. Eating all your veggies raw is unrealistic for nearly everyone. Afterall, some foods just taste better cooked - and no one wants to eat a raw potato!
Unless you eat a lot of your produce raw, though, it would probably be a good idea to up the amount you do. Work more salads into your diet, slice up red peppers, carrots, and cauliflower and keep them in the refrigerator for snacking.
As with most things, balance is important. Never hesitate to eat raw, crunchy vegetables - but don't shun cooked ones, either. Try to munch on raw veggies whenever possible because chances are, you aren't eating enough now.