Raw Vegetables versus Lightly Cooked
Raw vegetables have some significant health advantages compared to cooked vegetables, mainly that their enzymes, vitamins and other micronutrients are intact. However a 100% raw diet is difficult to maintain and is certainly not the best diet to follow slavishly. Many foods need to be cooked to extract their nutrition.
Interestingly traditional practicing Taoists who have achieved long lives for thousands of years, recommend lightly steaming their vegetables. I note in Grow Youthful that cooking destroys the anti-nutrients present in a few vegetables such as eggplants (aubergines), potatoes and turnips. It lists a range of foods which should always be cooked rather than consumed raw.
Now some research (1) suggests another reason for light steaming - it seems to improve the digestive capability of several vegetables. In this study, when beets, carrots, eggplant, okra, green beans, asparagus and cauliflower were lightly steamed, something interesting happened. The steamed veggies did a better job of binding to bile acids than the raw veggies. Your liver uses cholesterol to make bile, so the process also tends to mop up some of the LDL circulating in your body.
Throughout Grow Youthful I emphasise that cholesterol is not "bad". It is essential for numerous processes in your body, and is the raw material used to make many steroid hormones. Until twenty years ago I had been on a low cholesterol diet for most of my life. I felt stressed and angry. Getting back onto a diet with sufficient cholesterol improved both my physical and mental health. So lowering your cholesterol levels is not necessarily a good thing - instead, your focus should be on inflammation and oxidisation.
1. Kahlon T. S. et al.
Steam cooking significantly improves in vitro bile acid binding of beets, eggplant, asparagus, carrots, green beans, and cauliflower.
Nutrition Research 2007 Dec;27(12):750-755.