Time to Rethink Your Salad Routine: These 4 Vegetables Are Actually Healthier When Cooked

Plus two that are significantly better for you raw.

What matters most? The fact that we're eating veggies in the first place. And the more the merrier, as U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend at least 2½ cups (about three servings) per day. So if you love snacking on raw carrot sticks, don't let us get in your way.

That being said, the nutritional value of each type of vegetable varies with how it's prepared and served. While most veggies offer the optimal amount of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients when consumed raw, some are actually healthier after being cooked.

Cooking vegetables can make it easier for your body to absorb their nutritional benefits, says Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD, author of The Better Period Food Solution. Here are four types of veggies Beckerman advises we consume cooked (rather than raw) to fully reap their nutrients—and two that are healthier raw.

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Tomatoes

Tomatoes

"Cooking tomatoes does something remarkable to their cellular make up," Beckerman says. "It breaks down their stubborn cellular walls so the body can mop up valuable nutrients, such as lycopene, which is a superstar antioxidant." Lycopene can help fight off colds and keep you protected during flu season.

Also, be careful not to burn or char your tomatoes (or any food for that matter), because cooking at high temperature can diminish useful vitamins and minerals.

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Carrots

Carrots

Raw carrots are fine—but cooked carrots are better. Cooking carrots allows beta carotene, an antioxidant compound that gets converted to vitamin A in the intestine, to absorb more easily in the body, explains Beckerman. This helps your body soak up even more health benefits, like boosting your immunity and promoting eye health.

An ideal nutrition combination is carrots with an iron-rich grain, such as sorghum or buckwheat. Research has shown that beta carotene significantly enhances the absorption of iron by protecting it from diminishing.

RELATED: We All Know Whole Grains Are Good for You, but These 11 Are the Healthiest

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Spinach

Spinach

Contrary to popular belief, cooking spinach boosts the amount of iron in the final product when compared to raw spinach. Cooking also increases the bioavailability of other nutrients like vitamin A, E, and zinc.

As a bonus, adding vitamin C to your meal (like lemon juice or orange segments), significantly enhances iron absorption in your body. No vitamin C rich foods handy? Get a similar effect by taking a multivitamin with vitamin C, like Centrum, with your meal.

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Asparagus

Asparagus

Cooking asparagus helps to break down the thick cell walls of the asparagus stalk, and helps our body absorb disease-fighting vitamins like A, C, and E. According to Beckerman, sautéing asparagus (or other veggies) in a drizzle of healthy oil (like olive oil) also helps increase the bioavailability of asparagus' key nutrients.

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Eat These Raw: Cucumber and Celery

On the flip side, cucumber and celery are nutritionally superior when consumed raw, because they have delicate water-soluble nutrients in the form of vitamin B and C. When cooked in water, these valuable nutrients readily leach out, causing the vegetables' nutritional value to sharply plummet. Additionally, a delicate antioxidant in cucumbers called fisetin (known for its anti-inflammatory, disease-fighting, and neuroprotective properties) dissolves when cooked in water.

RELATED: Red Alert: These Are the 4 Worst Foods That Cause Inflammation

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