Michelle's Photos August 2013 008

It is winter here in Melbourne, Australia and warm soup is instinctively my food of choice. Maybe it’s a childhood thing but crawling under a blanket ( hand knitted for full effect) and sipping something warm makes me feel good inside and out.

There are lots of benefits to consuming cooked vegetables beyond just their warming winter comfort. The force that is the raw food movement however would have us believe that raw vegetables, in their unadulterated state, is the more healthful option, but Is raw really better than cooked?

In case you just popped by for a great Green Soup recipe here is a favourite brew of mine that is an easily digestible and delicious way of getting your greens, however there is more to consider when deciding the best way to eat your veggies, so do read on.

Green Soup

  • coconut oil for lightly frying
  • onion
  • garlic
  • spring onions
  • zucchini
  • brussel sprouts
  • kale
  • bok choy
  • parsley
  • cauliflower
  • soaked wakame (sea vegetable)
  • stock
  • black pepper
  • himalayan salt to taste

Chop all vegetables into small pieces (as you will only partially blend soup at the end). Lightly fry garlic and onion on low heat. Slowly add all other ingredients and cover with water and stock until vegetables are just covered. Simmer gently for 40 minutes. Use a stick blender to partially blend the soup so that it still has texture and serve. Enjoy for taste and for all its health promoting properties (listed below).

With green smoothies making their way to celebrity status and raw food and juice bars sprouting like a spring harvest you probably already realise that raw food has taken the western world by storm. And how is everybody doing on the raw food diet?

The truth is raw food is not suitable for everyone all of the time.  Some may do well on some raw food, some may do well for a while, and then there are others who will never thrive on this diet. So whilst raw vegetables are undoubtedly nutritious there are other factors to consider in the equation that leads to optimal health and overall wellbeing.

Some vegetables should never be eaten raw.

There are occasions where vegetables need to be cooked either to improve absorption or prevent their anti-nutrients from adversely affecting our health.

Some vegetables contain high levels of oxalic acid which, when consumed raw, interfere with the absorption of calcium. These vegetables include leafy greens such as spinach, beet leaves, and silverbeet (or swiss chard) and should really be cooked to minimise their impact.

Foods from the Brassica family of vegetables can cause decreased thyroid function by blocking iodine uptake into the thyroid. Cooking these foods will make them safer to consume for those with thyroid issues. These foods include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, radishes, turnips, kohlrabi, kale, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and watercress.

Lycopene is a phytonutrient found in red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes. It is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect against degenerative diseases by neutralizing free radicals in the body. Cooked tomato products have higher levels of lycopene than raw tomatoes due to the breakdown of the cell walls of the tomato, leaving the lycopene more available

Cooking vegetables improves digestibility.

Digestion is closely linked with immune health and is thus a pre-requisite for overall health.The digestive process ensures that we absorb and assimilate nutrients from the foods we eat and use them to build new tissue.

The enzymes and nutrients in plant foods are encased inside cellulose cell walls. Cooking plant foods softens or breaks down cell walls making the nutrients and enzymes locked inside them more readily available. Use low temperatures and cook slowly for healthiest results.

According to traditional Eastern medicine food must be “burned” in the “fire” of digestion. Cold and raw foods weaken this fire and people with weak digestion do well to eat no or little raw or cold food or drinks. So try swapping your green smoothies for warm, green soup and your raw salads for steaming stews and see what feedback your body gives you.

If you are prone to emotional or mental instability eat your food cooked.

From the perspective of Ayurveda, a diet high in raw foods generally increases the air and ether elements in the body-mind, and depending on your dosha (individual qualities) too much raw food could cause physical, mental, and emotional imbalance. To counter this Vata imbalance eat warm, cooked, easy-to-digest foods. This will help calm the mind, soothe anxiety and aid with any sleep disorders that may follow as a result.

We are all individual and what works for one person will not necessarily work for another. I encourage you to be flexible and experiment with different foods and the ways in which you prepare them. Listen closely to the feedback your own body gives you when trying new things (or even when sticking to possibly outdated old ways). In determining what works well you will discover for yourself how to tailor your diet and lifestyle in order to achieve optimal health.