Raw or Cooked? How Best to Prep 11 Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain a lot of nutrients and antioxidants like carotenoids, flavonoids, and polyphenols that can help prevent health issues like cancer and cardiovascular disease and can even help your mood. Antioxidants help your body counteract damage caused by toxic byproducts called free radicals. Eating more fruits and vegetables also increases your vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, thiamine, and niacin, minerals, and fiber.
But it can be tricky to know how you should store and prepare fresh foods to get the most nutrients.
Luckily, storing most fruits and vegetables generally does not lose antioxidants. In fact, antioxidant levels can even go up in the few days after you buy them. But when you start to see the fruit or vegetable spoil and turn brown, that usually means that they have started to lose their antioxidants. The main exceptionsare broccoli, bananas, and apricots, which are more sensitive and start to lose their antioxidants in storage within days, so eat those sooner than later.
Here's how you should prepare 11 fruits or vegetables in order to maximize antioxidants and nutrients.
1. Tomatoes. Cooked may be better than raw.
- Storage tip: Even though this will make shelf life shorter, store tomatoes in room temperature since tomatoes can lose antioxidants (and flavor) when stored in cooler temperatures.
Cook your tomatoes to release higher levels of lycopene and overall antioxidants. You can cook them for up to 30 minutes at 190.4 degrees Fahrenheit (88 degrees Celsius). Lycopene is found in red fruits and vegetables like watermelon, red bell pepper, and papaya and has been linked to lower rates of cancer. Raw tomatoes have less overall antioxidants, but have more vitamin C.
2. Carrots. Raw or sous vide, steamed, boiled. Cooked can be better than raw.
Cook your carrots to get more beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gets converted in your body to vitamin A, which is good for your eyes and immune system.
Sous vide carrots for best results. Steaming or boiling carrots preserves more antioxidants than roasting, frying or microwaving. If you're in Top Chef mode, try sous vide carrots -- this method of sealing food in an airtight plastic bag and placing the bag into a water bath keeps even more antioxidants than steaming.
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