When it comes to vegetables, vegetarians, vegans and almost every person in the planet make the wrong assumption all vegetables can be eaten raw. The truth is some can be quite harmful and even deadly!
Vegetables contain not only vitamins that are good for your body, but also contain chemicals and chemical compounds that can put your health in danger, be one of the causes of obesity and so many other diseases.
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Turnip, Brussels Sprouts & others...
Some of the vegetables that should ALWAYS be eaten cooked come from the family of the Cruciferous (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, turnip, collard, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, rutabaga, and many others). These vegetables contain chemicals known as Goitrogens in small to large quantities depending on the vegetable. Goitrogens are substances that suppress the function of the thyroid gland by interfering with iodine intake, which can, as a result, cause an enlargement of the thyroid. An enlarged thyroid produces less thyroid hormones which can translate in weight gain and in some extreme cases obesity. These vegetables are recommended to be eaten cooked and raw consumption should be minimized or avoided completely. For a full list of these vegetables please click here.
Potatoes & Eggplants...
Potatoes and Eggplants are also vegetables not recommended to be eaten raw as they contain toxic compounds known as Glycoalkaloids, of which the most prevalent are Solanine and Chaconine. These toxins affect the nervous system causing weakness and confusion. If the levels are high enough they can cause headaches, diarrhea and cramps and in extreme cases death; although poisoning from potatoes occurs very rarely. Solanine greens with light exposure producing a green skin on the potato giving an indication it can be more toxic. Cooking the potatoes at high temperatures partly destroys these toxins. Although Eggplants contain very small amounts of Solanine (not the same for leaves and flowers which are known to be highly toxic), to suffer the fatal effects of this toxin a human would need to consume 36 raw eggplants. Getting into the habit of eating them raw in smoothies on a daily basis is not such a good idea, not mentioning raw eggplants have a quite unpleasant taste.
Sweet potatoes should also be served cooked. Although they don't contain highly toxic chemicals, eating them raw can cause cramps, gas and intestinal discomfort.
Ah! The Fabulous Spinach!...
Some other vegetables contain a chemical called Oxalic Acid, and acid that can be quite irritating to the mouth and intestinal tract that is known to contribute to the formation of kidney stones and block the absorption of Iron and Calcium. A common vegetable that contains a fairly high amount of Oxalic Acid which is consumed by many raw in salads and smoothies, is Spinach. But don't be afraid of this fabulous veggie! Just by slightly cooking it, steaming it or sauteing it, the Oxalic Acid is removed leaving you with a fabulous green that can give you a great iron boost without the stomachache. Make sure to drain and discard the cooking water though.
Other vegetables that contain Oxalic Acid in lower or higher concentrations are parsley, chives, verdolaga (also known as purslane) beet greens, chards an many others. Some of these veggies like parsley and chives are eaten in such small quantities and so sporadically that for most people without any medical conditions won't cause any harm. But don't abuse them! Everything in excess even of a good thing, can be a bad thing!
Drinking fresh juice from veggies that are safe to consume raw is a fast way to get all the vegetable and fruits nutrients your body needs if you're in a hurry.
Always balance your diet and be smart about the ingredients and foods you use to keep you and your family healthy!