You already know not to eat raw chicken or eggs (or, at least, you should know). But eating these surprising foods raw can give you extra nutritional benefits.
We bet your mom always told you to eat your broccoli when you were a kid (whose mom didn’t?), but she may not have told you that it’s better to eat it raw than cooked. Broccoli contains high amounts of the phytochemical sulforaphane, which helps prevent cancer, heart disease, inflammation, depression, and more harmful health conditions. And a 2008 study published in the Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry showed that our bodies absorb sulforaphane more quickly when we eat broccoli raw instead of cooked. Another study from 2009 also found that cooking broccoli in a variety of ways, including microwaving, boiling, and stir-frying it, decreased the veggie’s vitamin C levels. If you can’t stand the thought of raw broccoli, try steaming it. That cooking method had the least effect on its nutrients.
Onions are loaded with health benefits, including cancer-fighting ones, thanks to high concentrations of the flavonoid quercetin. “When eaten raw, you maximize on [onions’] cancer-fighting properties,” says Ashley Walter, nutritionist and chef of Living with Ashley. “Cooking reduces the benefits of the phytochemicals in onions that fights against cancers.” What’s more, onions are in the allium family of vegetables, which means they contain antiplatelet agents that can prevent cardiovascular disease. A 2012 study found that when raw onions were heated in an oven, those heart-healthy properties completely disappeared in 30 minutes or less, depending on whether the onions were whole, quartered, or crushed.
Like onions, garlic is an allium vegetable that also has antiplatelet agents, but that means its properties that fight cardiovascular disease are also affected by heat. A 2007 study found that heating garlic at 200ºC for six minutes completely suppressed antiplatelet activity in uncrushed garlic and significantly reduced it in crushed garlic. There’s another health benefit to using raw garlic: “Studies show that heat inactivates the alliinase enzyme,” registered dietitian nutritionist Nancy Woodbury, MA, MS, RD, LD/N, tells Reader’s Digest. “Boiling garlic for 20 minutes completely suppressed antibacterial activity, and only one minute of microwave heat destroyed 100 percent of its cancer-fighting ability. Crushing garlic and allowing it to sit 10 minutes before heating it partially restored its anticarcinogenic power, but the cooked garlic was still 30 percent less potent than raw garlic.” Look out for these cooking mistakes that could make your food toxic.