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Sean Cate
Sean Cate
June 21, 2024 ·  3 min read

8 Foods You Should Consider Eating Raw (and 5 You Should Cook)

Understanding the nutritional value between raw and cooked foods can help you make better dietary habits and improve your overall health. While some foods retain more nutrients when raw, others become more beneficial once cooked. Here we highlight eight foods you should consider eating raw and five that are better when cooked, based on their nutritional and health benefits.

1. Broccoli

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Broccoli is a powerhouse of nutrients, especially in sulforaphane, an antioxidant compound linked to cancer prevention, type 2 diabetes management, and reduced inflammation.1 Eating raw broccoli ensures higher sulforaphane absorption compared to cooking, which significantly lowers its vitamin C levels.

Read More: 10 Foods To Avoid if You Have High Blood Pressure (and 10 to Eat More of)

2. Onions

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Raw onions are loaded with cancer-fighting flavonoids like quercetin, which lose their effectiveness when cooked. Studies have shown that heating onions depletes these beneficial compounds, lowering their cardiovascular benefits. Including raw onions in salads or garnishes can maximize their health properties.

3. Garlic

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Garlic, another allium vegetable, retains more of its antiplatelet and anticancer properties when eaten raw. Heat deactivates the alliinase enzyme, which is crucial for its cancer-fighting capabilities. To preserve some benefits, crush garlic and let it sit for ten minutes before cooking.

4. Blueberries

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Raw blueberries are full of potent antioxidants that protect the body from oxidative stress. Cooking blueberries significantly reduces their polyphenol content, so eating them raw is preferable for maximum health benefits.

Read More: 9 of The Best Foods and Drinks for Liver Health

5. Red Bell Peppers

red pepper
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Red bell peppers contain nearly triple the vitamin C of an orange. Cooking these peppers destroys a lot of their vitamin C content as well as other antioxidants that protect against chronic diseases. Eating them raw in salads or as snacks can help you benefit from their full nutritional profile.

6. Kale

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Kale is best consumed raw to retain its glucosinolates, which transform into disease-fighting compounds. Cooking inactivates myrosinase, the enzyme that triggers this transformation, reducing its cancer-preventive properties. Raw kale salads or smoothies are excellent ways to enjoy its benefits.

7. Beets

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Raw beets maintain higher levels of folate, fiber, and other vitamins compared to their cooked counterparts. Cooking beets can result in a 25% loss of their nutrients. Shaving raw beets onto salads can add both color and nutrition.

8. Pineapple

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Raw pineapple is rich in bromelain, an enzyme with anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce swelling and aid digestion. Cooking pineapple diminishes bromelain’s effectiveness, making raw consumption more beneficial.

Foods You Should Cook

1. Tomatoes

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Cooking tomatoes increases the bioavailability and concentration of lycopene, a potent antioxidant linked to reduced cancer risk and heart disease. Heat breaks down cell walls, enhancing lycopene absorption. However, avoid frying as it can lead to nutrient loss.2 Tomatoes are still nutritious raw, but cooking has its perks.

2. Carrots

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Cooked carrots have higher levels of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body converts to vitamin A, essential for vision and immune function. Cooking also softens carrots, making their nutrients more accessible.

3. Spinach

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While raw spinach is rich in lutein and vitamin C, cooking spinach increases its beta-carotene content, which is crucial for overall health. Cooking also helps reduce oxalates, which can interfere with nutrient absorption.

4. Asparagus

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Cooking asparagus enhances its antioxidant levels, making it more beneficial. However, it also reduces vitamin C content. Steaming or microwaving asparagus preserves most of its nutrients while improving digestibility.

5. Mushrooms

raw mushrooms
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Cooking mushrooms boosts their antioxidant activity, particularly when sautéed or roasted quickly. However, long cooking times can reduce beneficial flavonoids. Briefly cooking mushrooms enhances their nutrient profile while retaining their health benefits.


raw foods
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Balancing raw and cooked foods in your diet can optimize nutrient intake and health benefits. Raw foods often retain sensitive vitamins and antioxidants, while cooking can enhance the bioavailability of certain compounds. Understanding these dynamics helps in making informed dietary choices. Ultimately, the best approach is to include a variety of both raw and cooked vegetables and fruits in your diet to ensure a broad spectrum of nutrients.3

Read More: 17 of The Worst Junk Foods You Can Buy in America


  1. 8 Foods You Should Be Eating Raw.” Healthy.  Claire Nowak. March 30, 2022.
  2. Are Vegetables Healthier Raw or Cooked? A Look at 11 Veggies.” Good Rx. Candace Nelson, MS, CN. July 4, 2023.
  3. Fact or Fiction: Raw Veggies are Healthier than Cooked Ones.” Scientific American. March 31, 2009