It's time to turn up the heat.

By Kirsten Nunez
July 20, 2020
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There’s no doubt vegetables are good for you, regardless of how they’re prepared. Yet, cooking veggies gets a bad rap because the process can destroy essential nutrients. But what if that wasn’t always the case? As it turns out, some vegetables are actually more nutritious when they’re given some heat. It also makes them easier to chew and digest (and enhances their flavor, too). To get the most out of your homemade meals, show these 5 veggies a little stovetop love.

Broccoli

Raw broccoli is delicious with dips—but cooking the crunchy veggie may be the best move. According to a 2018 article, cooking broccoli increases alpha-tocopherol, a type of vitamin E with powerful antioxidative properties. It also retains more beta-carotene, a plant pigment that the body can use to make vitamin A.

Spinach

Follow Popeye’s lead and munch on cooked spinach. When this leafy green is cooked, the heat reduces activity of enzymes that normally destroy vitamin E, according to a 2018 study. This research also notes that cooking breaks down the leaves’ cell walls, releasing vitamin E and beta-carotene for our bodies to soak up.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant demonstrated by research to improve cardiovascular and cognitive function. The bioavailability of lycopene increases when tomatoes are cooked, and extra points if you use olive oil, which further enhances bioavailability, according to a 2012 study. (Finally, we have the perfect excuse to make extra saucy spaghetti!)

Green Bell Pepper

Cooking green bell peppers is the way to go. A 2012 study found that heat increases the peppers’ ability to bind bile acids, helping reduce cholesterol levels (and the risk of heart disease). To up your bell pepper intake, add them to omelets or make stuffed peppers.

Mushrooms

While raw mushrooms are high in antioxidants, cooking can take things up a notch. In a 2017 study, researchers found that quickly steaming or microwaving mushrooms increases their level of antioxidants, including vitamin C. Try tossing cooked mushrooms with your favorite salads.