It feels like most nutrition and diet advice requires you to do more work—to go to obscure stores, to learn rare chopping techniques and learn how to pickle things—but today’s tip actually requires you to do less. When you cook food, it doesn’t only develop tasty charred lines, become softer, become crispier and get hotter, but its composition actually changes. You know this instinctively because some foods, when eaten raw, can be fatal. And some foods, when cooked, melt or disintegrate. But something else that can happen when you cook certain foods is they lose many of their nutrients. So, get ready to shave off some of your cooking time and strengthen your chewing teeth because these foods are actually more nutritious when eaten raw. You may still want to cut and season them—we didn’t say they were more delicious uncooked.
While you may not cook your berries often, you probably do eat them dehydrated. Unfortunately, when berries go through the dehydration process, they end up with so much sugar that it nearly outweighs the nutritional benefits.
Before you toss this into boiling, hot wonton soup, keep in mind that raw seaweed is a little super food. It contains large amounts of iron and calcium but will lose some of that if you scorch it in hot water.
Red bell peppers
Red bell peppers are bursting with vitamin C, but not when you roast them and stuff them with ground beef. Leave this bright fruit raw to hang onto its high levels of this important vitamin.
While you may drive your partner nuts when you loudly chew on this food raw, just tell him it will help you live longer. When left raw, broccoli can better deliver sulforaphane to your system, which is important for heart health.
Coconut, like berries, is often dehydrated and turned into an on-the-go snack. However, coconut delivers most of its healthy and hydrating properties when left raw.
It’s rare to find beets left raw on a restaurant menu, but they can be, and should be! Beets lose up to a quarter of their folate, which is wonderfully good for your brain, when you cook them. Try slicing them thinly and adding them to salad to get used to eating them raw.
Resisting the urge to melt your chocolate bar into fondue is not what we mean by raw. If you want all of the nutrients chocolate has to offer, you should nibble on cacao nibs. These are natural stress reducers.
Arugula may be a bit bitter, but it tastes delicious on top of a pizza. When you eat it raw, it contains compounds that can help fight cancer. Put it on hot food once the food has cooled slightly, so the arugula doesn’t accidentally cook.
Raw onions may leave you with potent breath, but they also contain allicin, which can fight high blood pressure and even act as an appetite suppressant. So stop ordering your burgers “Animal Style.”
Yup—if you want to get plenty of nutrients, you have to have strong breath. Garlic also boasts allicin and, like onions, offers more of it when eaten raw.
Most people instantly think of a stir fry when they think of bok choy, and those are obviously cooked. But this green vegetable actually can and should be eaten raw so you can consume more of the isothiocyanates, which can fight cancer.
Rather than adding these to your stir-fry, toss them into your salad, raw. Sprouts boast more vitamins and minerals per calorie than most vegetables, but they also lose a lot of that when cooked.
Seeds—sesame seeds specifically—are another thing you may add to a stir fry. But raw seeds pack all of the vitamin E and healthy fats. When you cook these, you can lose a lot of that.
Skip the sautéed spinach and stick to a spinach salad (with raw strawberries! Per our berry conversation). Spinach can deliver tons of the antioxidant chlorophyll when left raw, but a lot of that dies off if you cook it.
Kale contains a similar nutrient profile as Spinach so order the kale salad instead of the kale-stuffed ravioli. If you express the leaves by lightly rubbing them, they’ll become softer and easier to digest, too.