Whenever you go to a party, it’s there, smack dab in the middle of the table, that round plate the size of a trashcan cover with its nucleus of murky, gelatinous glop that’s referred to as dip. Yes, it’s the feared raw vegetables platter, the one you’re compelled to sample in lieu of grabbing a handful of the crabby cheese wontons so people don’t question your nutritional piety. Stupid raw vegetable platter.
Thanks to the Australians, though, you might not have as much reason to feel guilty about skipping it.
Do what the Australians do
The one thing that just about everyone can agree on is that eating fruits and vegetables is good for you, but just how good is always up for debate. In attempt to at least make a dent in solving that debate, scientists at the University of Sydney used data from more than a 150,000 Australians during the “Australian 45 and Up Study” and followed them for an average of 6.2 years.
They wanted to see exactly what lifestyle practices had the biggest impact on mortality. Those Aussies that ate the most fruits and vegetables scored well, but they often practiced other healthy habits, like maintaining a healthy weight, sleeping 7 to 9 hours a night, not being smokers, being physically active, etc.
However, when the scientists started to take a deeper look at the category of fruits and vegetables consumed, they noticed something really weird. Those Australians who ate the most fruit clearly were less likely to die. Vegetables had an effect on longevity, but it wasn’t nearly as strong as the effect of fruits, which surprised the hell out of the investigators.
They then separated the vegetable group into two categories, raw and cooked. That’s when they saw some gourd-blowing results. The Australians that cooked their vegetables – either by boiling, steaming, or even frying – had markedly LOWER mortality rates.
Why cook your vegetables?
The researchers were perplexed, but they at least came up with a guess, which is more than most PhD’s are comfortable doing. They thought that maybe cooking, regardless of the method, makes more of the nutrients and bioactive substances in the vegetables available to human digestion. Still, they admitted that the “association of raw versus cooked vegetables in relation to mortality requires further investigation.”
There’s another possible point to consider. Most guys, when eating food, take one, possibly two more chews than a boa constrictor would, which is to say that they pretty much swallow their food whole. Without proper grinding and chewing, largely intact pieces of vegetable enter the digestive tract and are somewhat impervious to digestive juices, leaving many of their nutrients imprisoned in big chunks of zucchini, broccoli, rutabaga, etc.
All of that rings true, and it may give you ample reason to choose cooked over raw, but until scientists make further inroads into the raw vs. cooked debate, we should all be eating as many fruits and vegetables in general as we can tolerate.