fruits and vegetablesDid you know that a green (unripe) banana confers its own unique health benefits?

Green bananas are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and contain resistant starch which cannot be broken down by enzymes in your digestive system and, therefore, acts more like fiber. Including foods high in resistant starch in your diet may reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease by aiding in blood sugar control and lowering blood cholesterol levels.

Bananas have higher levels of antioxidants as they ripen. Fully ripened bananas produce a substance called Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF). TNF regulates immune cells and imparts anti-cancer qualities.  As bananas ripen and form dark patches, the banana has a higher immunity-enhancing quality.

As important as what we eat is how we eat it. Many health advocates claim that a raw diet offers the most nutritional value compared to cooked foods.  Does eating your food raw give you the best nutritional bang for the buck? Maybe not.

Cooked or raw?

When you cook your veggies, you lose some nutrients, but others become more available for your body to use. In some veggies, heating releases bound calcium, making more of the mineral available for the body to absorb. Cooked spinach, for example, has 245 mg per cup of calcium, while raw spinach only has 30 mg per cup. That’s a significant difference!  Other foods that may be more nutritious cooked include mushrooms, carrots, potatoes and asparagus.

Tomatoes are very high in an antioxidant called lycopene.  Cooked tomatoes have as much as 164% more lycopene than raw tomatoes.  The vitamin C content of tomatoes decreases when they are cooked by as much as 50%.  For men, eating cooked tomatoes may be preferable as lycopene has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Foods that have water-soluble vitamins like B and C, may be better eaten raw, at least sometimes.  Bell peppers, for example, lose 75% of their antioxidants when cooked. Other foods to consider eating raw are broccoli, carrots, onions and garlic. The consensus among most nutrition experts is that you need both raw and cooked veggies to get the most vitamins and minerals.

The best way to eat fruits and veggies is the way that will get you to eat the most of them.  Listen to your body and do what works for you.