Winter time is here and you can spot many vendors selling bright orange carrots, the fresh produce of the season. Besides reserving your stock of carrots for salads, there's a lot that you can do with them. Juice them up for breakfast, blend them into a warm and creamy carrot soup for dinner or make a rich gajar ka halwafor dessert. But wait, aren't raw carrots healthier? And, does cooking them really destroy their nutrients? Let's bust one of the most common myths surrounding carrots.It is a common belief that when you cook vegetables the heat tends to destroy the nutrients but this principle may not be true for all vegetables. Yes, there are some veggies such as beetroot, broccoli and bell peppers which are healthier when eaten raw. One reason is that these vegetables contain Vitamin C which is a heat-sensitive nutrient that gets destroyed during cooking. But, in case of carrots, this may not be true. In fact, it is believed that cooked carrots tend to be healthier and more nutritious.A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry shows that boiling and steaming tends to preserve the antioxidant carotenoid found in carrots and zucchini. Simply put, the carotenoids found in carrots such as the beta carotene are more readily available to be absorbed by the body when they are cooked.(Also read: 9 Every Day Foods That Are Healthier When Raw)
A warm carrot soup is the best comforting meal for winters. Photo Credit: istockBeta-carotene is an important carotenoid which gives fruits and vegetables their red, yellow, and orange colour. The body converts this beta-carotene into vitamin A, an essential nutrient that plays an important role in maintaining healthy vision, bone growth and boosting the immune system. It is a fat-soluble vitamin which is not lost when the foods containing them are cooked. The body tends to store it in the liver and adipose tissue when not used and therefore, you don't need this vitamin in large quantities or on a daily basis. Pumpkins which are also rich in beta-carotene follow the same principle and may be more nutritious when cooked than eating them raw as per various scientific studies.The same is true for tomatoes which are rich in lycopene, another type of carotenoid that imparts colour to the fruit (yes, tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable, scientifically speaking). Cooking tomatoes tends to increase the activity of lycopene. There are a lot of other vegetables too that may be healthier when cooked. For instance, cooking spinach tends to make the folate levels constant and in case of asparagus, which has thick walls that make it hard for the body to absorb the vitamins, cooking breaks down the fibrous cells and makes it easier to derive all the goodness. (Also read: 8 Amazing Benefits of Eating Carrots)
A vibrant looking carrot salad. Photo Credit: IstockFor most, vegetables, however, it is suggested to steam them slightly and keep the heating minimum to preserve the Vitamin C and other live enzyme that high heat may destroy. Raw or cooked, the bottom line is to make sure you eat your veggies and get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals.
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