We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for you. That's a given. But did you know that there are ways to make your fresh fruits and veggies even healthier?
Here are eight foods that are actually healthier after you cook them:
Raw, shaved asparagus is delicious on salads, but the vegetable's cell walls are tough, making it difficult for your body to process its vitamins like A, C, E and folate. Cooking the asparagus softens those walls, making it easier to absorb all those good cancer-fighting vitamins.
Carrots contain a compound called Beta-carotene, which your body converts into Vitamin A. That's why carrots help with your vision - it's actually that Vitamin A! It also helps with healthy skin and your immune health. NPR reported on a study which found that cooking carrots increases their levels of Beta-carotene. Similar to asparagus, the heat softens the vegetable, making it easier for your body to process all the vitamins and antioxidants.
Spinach has lots of antioxidants, and it has even more after you cook it. Steaming spinach leaves (or even boiling them) helps preserve those antioxidants to improve absorption.
These fun little vegetables are great because they're soft and don't have a strong flavor, so you can easily steam them and throw them in with a stir fry or pasta dish. When you heat them up, they release protein, minerals and vitamins. Plus, mushrooms are full of potassium and fiber, so they'll fill you up.
Red peppers contain something called lycopene — a cancer-preventative antioxidant responsible for the pepper's bright red color. When you cook the peppers in something with a bit of fat — like coconut or olive oil, it will be easier to digest and process.
Just like red peppers, tomatoes have lycopene — again explaining their red coloring. Cooking tomatoes for 15-30 minutes with some olive or coconut oil can boost those lycopene levels.
Remember in middle school when you would eat sliced peaches straight out of a can? As long as you skip the sugary syrups, canned peaches actually have the right idea. The peaches are cooked before they're canned, which brings out their nutritional benefits (like Vitamin C) and maintains them longer than fresh peaches would.
I always knew kale was good for me, but the flavor was just too strong and bitter for me to enjoy fresh. I like steaming or boiling kale to mild out the flavor before tossing it in with a salad or soup. So you can imagine my joy when I realized that was actually making this miracle food even healthier. Cooking kale increases its iron content and makes it easier for your body to absorb its calcium.
It's difficult to convince your kids to eat their greens, but it shouldn't be difficult to convince yourself to eat them. Next time you want to skip the fruits and veggies, remember how much your body will thank you for filling it up with all that good stuff.
Emily Brady is a member of the FamilyShare content team. She studied Communication with an emphasis in journalism. She loves photography and finding a good book to read in her hammock on a sunny, breezy day.