Most Americans do not get the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables, but how much is enough? It turns out that the optimum number of fruits and veggies per day differs depending on your age and the amount of exercise you get on a daily basis. So, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Activity levels from lightly active (30 minutes a day or less), moderately active (30 to 60 minutes) to very active (60 minutes a day and up), and age ranges of 19-years-old to 50 plus all have different recommendations. It also depends on gender as well. Go here to see where you rank. Eating right and exercising greatly impacts your health and longevity. So, eating right and exercising both have extreme benefits as to how healthy you feel and help to ensure your long-term health as you age.
The Great Debate
Sometimes trying to track down and put into effect an eating program can be a little difficult because of all the different opinions and approaches. One person or website says one thing while another says something else; oftentimes these opinions are polar opposites, increasing the confusion as to what is the best approach. One of these debates centers on the benefits of eating raw vegetables versus cooking your vegetables.
Naturally, when charting your eating plan, in order to maximize the amount of nutrition, you will wish to prepare your food for optimum benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to preparing vegetables, as some will be nutritionally better raw, and others will be better cooked. Often the answers depend on a few factors such as your goals, the nutrients concerned and the specific cooking manner.
Although you may have heard that cooking vegetables can destroy some of the fiber and nutrients contained in the peel, things are not quite that black and white. Believe it or not, cooking some vegetables releases more nutrients or nutrient accessibility such as in the case of onions and garlic. It is widely known that garlic has health benefits, but did you know that cooking onions and garlic trigger chemical reactions; thereby, releasing more beneficial compounds?
In other types of vegetables, cooking decreases the rigidity of the cell boundaries, releasing nutrients and increasing absorption. One such vegetable is carrots; cooking carrots releases more beta-carotene which is beneficial to eye health. More lycopene, which is found in tomatoes and thought to reduce the incidence of heart disease and cancer, is released when tomatoes are cooked. Other vegetables when prepared in water (steamed or boiled), lose the majority of the water soluble vitamins, and many of the beneficial minerals.
In order to take advantage of the benefits of cooking some vegetables, it is essential to prepare each properly. Both over-cooking and under-cooking cause the loss of some of the benefits. For many of these foods, cooking times are extremely short. For example, steaming some vegetables for more than 30 seconds will cause a loss of nutrients; whereas, some vegetables such as kale should be steamed for at least five minutes. Spinach, on the other hand, should be boiled less than one minute.
It is not hard to see why there is such confusion surrounding the proper preparation of our vegetables. The best advice is to do a little research before cooking to determine if cooking is better than raw; however, any veggies are better than no veggies.