Raw vs. Cooked – Which Contains More Vitamins and Minerals?

My son challenges me.  It’s kind of this game that we play.  Sometimes it’s not fun.

One of the first things questions he threw at me when I started my practice was:

“Is it better to each fruits and veggies raw or cooked?”

The research commenced!

Honestly he wasn’t the only one to put this question to me so the time was well spent!

Raw vs. Cooked

Let’s finally put an end to the debate of raw vs. cooked.

Of course, in the grand scheme of a well-balanced, nutrient-dense, varied, whole foods diet, the cooked vs. raw debate isn’t that critical for most people.

Where this can become a consideration is for vitamin and mineral deficiencies (or “insufficiencies”). These may be due to digestion or absorption issues, or avoidance of certain foods (due to allergies, intolerances, or choice).

Cancer patients may face some issues with digesting raw fruits and vegetables due to the impact of some treatments on the GI tract.  In such cases cooking these foods will help to break down the fibre, making it easier to digest.

The answer isn’t as simple as “raw is always better” or “cooked is always better.”  As with most nutrition science, it depends on several factors. Some vitamins are destroyed in cooking, while others become easier to absorb (a.k.a. more “bioavailable”).

Here is the skinny on vitamins and minerals in raw foods versus cooked foods.

Foods to eat raw

As a general rule, water soluble nutrients, like vitamin C and the B vitamins, found mostly in fruits and vegetables, are best eaten raw.

The reason why is two-fold.

First, when these nutrients are heated, they tend to degrade;  this is from any heat, be it steaming, boiling, roasting, or frying. Vitamin C and the B vitamins are a bit more “delicate” and susceptible to heat than many other nutrients.

Of course, the obvious way to combat these nutrient losses is to eat foods high vitamin C and B vitamins in their raw form (like in an awesome salad) or to cook them for as short a time as possible (like quickly steaming or blanching).

Fun fact: Raw spinach can contain three times the amount of vitamin C as cooked spinach.

The second reason why foods high in vitamin C and the B vitamins are best eaten raw is that they’re “water soluble.”  So, guess where the vitamins go when they’re cooked in water?  Yes, they’re dissolved right into the water;  this is particularly true for fruits and veggies that are boiled and poached but even for foods that steamed as well.

Of course, if you’re a savvy health nut, you’ll probably keep that liquid to use in your next soup or sauce to preserve those nutrients that are left after cooking. Just don’t overheat it or you may lose what you were aiming to keep.

But, how much loss are we talking about?  Well, of course, it ranges but can go from as low as 15%, up to over 50%.

In short, the water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamins degrade with heat and some of what’s left over after they’re heated dissolves into the cooking water. So be sure to cook your fruits and veggies as little as possible, and keep that cooking water to use in your next recipe.

Soaking nuts and seeds

Regarding raw nuts and seeds, it may be beneficial to soak them. Soaking nuts and seeds (for several hours at room temperature) allows some of the minerals to become “unlocked” from their chemical structure, so they’re more absorbable.

Foods to eat cooked

Cooking certain orange and red “beta-carotene rich” veggies (e.g. tomatoes, carrots, & sweet potatoes) can help make this pre-vitamin A compound more absorbable.

Fun fact: One study found that absorption of beta-carotene was 6.5 times greater in stir-fried carrots than in raw carrots!

Of course, eating your fat-soluble vitamins with a bit of fat will help you to absorb more of them, so that’s one factor to consider.

One vegetable that’s best eaten both raw and cooked

Spinach!

And I’m not just saying this to get everyone to eat it any way possible (although, I would love for this to happen…unless you’re allergic, of course).

Spinach contains so many beneficial compounds that it’s great eaten both raw and cooked.

Eating raw spinach preserves the water-soluble vitamins C & the B vitamins.

Eating spinach cooked allows the pre-vitamin A, as well as some of the minerals like iron to be better absorbed. Not to mention how much spinach reduces in size when it’s cooked, so it’s easier to eat way more cooked spinach than raw spinach.

Conclusion:

The old nutrition philosophy of making sure you get a lot of nutrient-dense whole foods into your diet holds true. Feel free to mix up how you eat them, whether you prefer raw or cooked just make sure you eat them.

Having trouble eating enough spinach? Try this flavourful recipe.

Recipe (cooked spinach): Sautéed Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bag baby spinach leaves
  • 1 dash salt
  • 1 dash black pepper
  • Fresh lemon

Directions:

  1. In a large cast iron pan heat olive oil.
  2. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  3. Add spinach, salt, pepper and toss with garlic and oil.
  4. Cover pan and cook on low for about 2 minutes.
  5. Saute cook spinach for another minute, stirring frequently, until all the spinach is wilted.
  6. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on top.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Enjoying the cooked spinach with the vitamin C in the “raw” lemon juice helps your body absorb more of the iron.

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References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/cooking-nutrient-content/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/10-ways-to-get-the-most-nutrients

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chai Tea Latte

I’m not sure what I enjoy the most about Chai tea; its flavour or its smell.  Perhaps it’s the combination of the two that has won my heart.

Chai tea is made from a combination of black tea, ginger and other spices like cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper and cloves.  And it is these spices that give Chai its many health benefits including anti-inflammatory and anti-tumorigenic properties:

The chemopreventative benefit of a whole foods diet is often attributed to phytochemicals, such as terpenoids and polyphenols, found in fruits, vegetables, and grains. Spices, (which) tend to have high concentrations of these classes of potentially therapeutic agents…Many spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, clove and ginger, have shown promise as chemopreventative and therapeutic agents in cancer. In vitro and in vivo, each of these compounds has demonstrated potent anti-inflammatory and anti-tumorigenic properties. Thus, chai tea, which contains a combination of all the aforementioned spices, represents an enjoyable means of chemoprevention.

~The Anti-Inflammatory and Chemopreventative Effects of Chai Tea; Tina Kaczor, ND, FABNO

The recipe below is a twist on the normal Chai tea latte that is milk-based.  As well as tasting great, this latte offers you:

  • Antioxidants
  • Healthy fats
  • Fiber

And you can enjoy it cooled, outside on a hot summer day. Or hot, snuggled up by the fire on a cool winter’s night. A true functional food that can really be enjoyed all year long!

Chai Tea Latte Recipe

Serves 1-2

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred)
  • 1-2 dates 
  • Cinnamon (optional)

Directions

  1. Cover the teabag and dates with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for about 4-5 minutes.
  2. Discard the tea bag and place tea, soaked dates, tahini and almond butter into a blender.
  3. Blend mixture until creamy.
  4. Sprinkle with cinnamon (if using) and serve right away.

If you want a cold beverage, simply chill it in your refrigerator for a bit and serve over ice.

Enjoy!


References:How Chai Tea Can Improve Your Health: Healthline

The Anti-Inflammatory and Chemopreventative Effects of Chai Tea; Tina Kaczor, ND, FABNO

Black Olive Salsa with Organic Corn Chips

Black Olive Salsa with Organic Corn Chips

Who doesn’t love a good salsa!  (I’m not sure if that is actually a question or a statement but I will go with the later:))

As with the great majority of recipes that I share with you, this is a simple, whole foods gem that likely includes many of the ingredients that you already have in your pantry.

Salsa and chips is a perfect snack for Saturday night hockey, Sunday afternoon football or your monthly book club meetings.

I included this recipe in the ‘Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen’ section of my October Newsletter and got some great feedback on it!

This salsa provides you with cancer-fighting nutrients like healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as well as gut healthy fibre.

I hope you enjoy it!

 

Black Olive Salsa with Organic Corn Chips

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white onions, chopped
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 tsp raw honey
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 10-12 black olives, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh pineapple cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • Organic corn chips
For added protein you can add leftover roast chicken or cooked Chickpeas 
Directions:
  1. Sauté the onions with the olive oil in a medium frying pan until slightly translucent
  2. Add the tomatoes, honey, garlic, and oregano
  3. Continue to cook on medium heat
  4. If using, add the chicken or beans and cook until juice has evaporated
  5. Remove from the heat and add the olives and pineapple
  6. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper
  7. Serve with organic corn chips
Tips:
  • If you like a little heat don’t be afraid to spice it up by adding chilli flakes or even jalapenos to the salsa before serving
  • If corn chips are not your thing, then try whole grain pita chips or your favourite whole grain cracker.

 

hot peppers

Why Do Hot Peppers Bring the Heat?

There are three basic groups of peppers: bell, sweet, and hot. People all over the world eat them in one form or another.  Some eat for them the flavour, some eat them for the challenge and many for a combination of the two.

I am going to focus here on the hot variety and just why they are so.

Peppers are hot because they contain a chemical called capsaicin and related chemicals called capsaicinoids. Capsaicin acts by binding with nerve receptors generally used to transmit heat and heat-related pain in the body. The higher the capsaicin content the hotter the pepper.

Scoville Heat Unit

In 1912 a chemist named Wilbur Scoville invented a scale to measure the heat of peppers.  To this day pepper heat is measured in the Scoville Heat Unit.  Bell and sweet peppers have zero Scoville units since they have no capsaicin. Jalepeno peppers measure from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville units and the pepper that I mistakenly planted this year, the Bhut Jolokia chili pepper or ghost pepper, which holds the distinction of being the world’s hottest chili pepper, measures 1,001,304 Scoville.

Back to capsaicin. It’s a flavourless and odourless substance found on the inside flesh of peppers. The experience of heat happens when the chemical binds to receptors that are made to respond to pain and heat in the throat and mouth. This tricks the brain into thinking that your mouth is on fire, causing your body to fight the “heat” by boosting your metabolism (increasing circulation) and cooling via perspiration.

After the brain gets this heat alert it sends out the cooling troops to neutralize and remove the heat.  These troops work to increased circulation by initiating cooling perspiration and reactions like a runny nose and teary eyes.

Myth:

A chilli pepper’s spicy heat comes from the seeds so removing them minimizes the heat.

Truth:

A chilli pepper’s spicy heat comes from the pith and ribs of the pepper, not the seeds.

The seeds may be coated with some of the capsaicin because they are in contact with the rib.  But the seeds themselves don’t actually contain any heat.

The ribs contain a good deal of the capsaicin heat but the flesh itself contains a good amount of heat as well.

So why can some people beat the heat while others suffer the fire?

There are 3 reasons proposed to answer this question.

1. Less Capsaicin Detecting Receptors

This theory states that some people inherit fewer of the capsaicin-detecting receptors that line your mouth and throat, making them less sensitive to hot peppers.

2. Training our heat receptors

An associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America, William Phillips, pointed out that people in some parts of the world such as Mexico or India naturally have higher tolerance for spicy food because they begin eating them at a very young age.

This receptor training desensitizes a person to capsaicin over time so they actually perceive less burn from capsaicin.

3. Thrill Seekers Love the Burn

This is interesting.  There was a  study done in 2012 that showed sensation-seeking individuals are more likely to like spicy food. The researchers found that people who are more open to new experiences and enjoy thrill-based activities, think roller coaster and rock climbing, tend to enjoy spicy food even if the immediate sensation is unpleasant.

Nadia Byrnes, one of the researchers stated that “Biologically, spice creates a sensation in the mouth that the brain interprets as burning or being on fire. When your body realizes there’s no real danger, it begins to interpret the sensation as a ‘thrill’ similar to gambling or riding roller coasters.”

Why are peppers healthy?

Hot peppers are healthy and here is why:

  • Capsaicin
    On top of being “hot,” capsaicin has been shown to be anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-diabetic.
  • Vitamins
    Peppers are a rich source of vitamin C. They also contain antioxidants like vitamin A and also B-complex vitamins like vitamin B-6 and B-1.
  • Minerals
    Chillies have a good amount of minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron, and manganese.

There are countless ways to incorporate hot peppers in to your diet. Your first decision however is to determine what types of peppers pack just the right amount of heat for you.

Hot Pepper Oil

Here is a handy dandy way to use hot peppers.

Is it a recipe?  Not sure but here is how it goes.

In a glass jar with a lid (I use 125ml one) cut up a a few peppers (I use 2-3 different types usually) enough to fill about half of the jar.

Fill the jar with a very good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil making sure all pepper are covered. Put the lid on the jar and let it sit for at least one day before using it.

This condiment is great on just so many dishes.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Baked Salmon with Coconut Aminos Marinade

Let’s address the elephant in the post here shall we.  What are Coconut Aminos?

Coconut Aminos are a  yummy sauce made from coconut sap.   The sauce is dark, rich and salty. It is gluten free and is a great replacement for soy sauce.

Unbeknownst to many is the fact that, unless otherwise stated, soy sauce is made with wheat.  The wheat is roasted and fermented with the soy to achieve the familiar soy sauce taste that we know and love.

Coconut Aminos don’t offer a powerhouse of nutritional content but if you are trying to maintain a gluten free diet they are the way to go when you need an alternative to soy sauce in your recipes.

The salmon recipe below is a family favourite of ours.  It is not only simple, it is also a great way to introduce Coconut Aminos in to your diet if they are a new addition to your pantry.

Baked Salmon with Coconut Aminos Marinade

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • ½ kg salmon fillets
  • 1/3 cup real maple syrup
  • 4 Tbsp Coconut Aminos
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • ¼ tsp.ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200C
  2. Mix the maple syrup, Coconut Aminos, garlic and pepper together in a small bowl
  3. Place salmon fillets in to a dish, cover with the marinade and refrigerate 30 minutes – 1 hour
  4. Transfer salmon fillets to a baking dish lined with parchment paper, saving the marinade, and bake the salmon until it is cooked through, approximately 15 minutes
  5. Pour the saved marinade into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  6. Reduce to 1/4 cup.
  7. When the salmon is done place it on a serving tray and drizzle the glaze over top of it.

Serve immediately.

For simple sides that really complement the salmon try serving this dish with roasted asparagus and wild rice.

Enjoy!