Since the rise of the raw food movement, many of us have been left wondering if our vegie stir-fry or lentil soup is really up to scratch.
Fans of the raw way of life argue that eating foods that have been heated above 40 degrees destroys a lot of the nutrients and may even create harmful chemicals in the food.
While nutrition experts say that those following a raw food diet can end up quite healthy given the sheer volume of fruit and vegetables they're eating, it turns out that some foods are actually better for us cooked – which is great news as we come into winter.
"Some foods become nutritional powerhouses because the cooking breaks own the cellular structure to make it easier for us to absorb the nutrients," Naturopath Karina Francois told Coach.
"But it's important to note that regardless of how you prepare your vegetables, they are full of fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. And how you cook them is important – steaming is much better than frying."
Veggies you're better off cooking
"Cooking spinach really does boost its calcium, iron and magnesium," Francois says.
"Lots of research actually shows that calcium triples in spinach when it's cooked. It also helps get rid of toxins called oxalates that generally prevent you from absorbing iron."
Francois suggests steaming it quickly then eating it.
"I always use olive oil and a bit of Celtic sea salt over my veggies so that I'm getting essential fatty acids as well as some extra minerals," she says.
"Kale is better cooked because it has greater cholesterol-lowering effects," Francois says.
If you're going to have your kale raw, Francois advises against eating the stalk.
"Steamed is usually the best way to cook it but if you're having it in a stirfry, throw your vegetables in at the end so that they're still crunchy."
"Cooking mushrooms kills toxins and breaks down the cellular structure to make it more digestible," Francois explains.
Francois says the potassium in mushrooms is also better activated when cooked.
"It's a muscle building component so I would definitely be cooking them," she says.
Cooking tomatoes boosts the potency of the antioxidant lycopene, which is thought to lower your risk of cancer and heart disease.
"Raw tomatoes only have about four percent lycopene but it increases to about 80 percent when they're cooked," Francois explains.
"Even if you're having a salad you can blanch them by putting them quickly into boiling water."
If you prefer your tomato raw, Francois says that's okay because you will still get vitamin C.
Cooking carrots actually makes the beta-carotene more easily absorbed by the body.
"Beta carotene is what our bodies convert to vitamin A and if you don't cook your orange vegetables it's very hard for your body to get it," Francois says.
Veggies better raw
"Raw broccoli has a component called glucosinolate, which is a sulphur-containing nutrient that helps to fight cancer, and it is decreased if you cook it," Francois says.
"It's still there if you cook it but it is decreased. If you're having it in a salad, you want to cut it up really, really small."
If you have a stomach ulcer, Francois says that juicing raw potato can be an effective remedy.
"Raw potato juice will heal an ulcer – you juice it in your juicer and drink it in little shots," she says.
"It doesn't taste great but it works amazingly."
But if a stomach ulcer is not your concern, then definitely cook your taters!
Grate some of this bright purple vegetable into your salad or sandwich, rather than roasting it.
"Cooking it will cause it to lose a quarter of its folate, which is important for cellular health – particularly for pregnant women," Francois says.
Disclaimer: This article was originally published in Coach.nine.com.au and can be seen here: