SAN FRANCISCO, March 30 -- While raw food diets are trendy today, the chemistry behind simple cooking may add a nutritional boost to certain vegetables. Researchers report that the act of cooking helps to increase the availability of iron already contained in such vegetables as asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, and tomatoes, making it easier for your body to absorb. The research was presented here today at the national meeting of the world's largest scientific society, the American Chemical Society.
Vegetarian diets are naturally lower in iron, and iron deficiency anemia is "the most prevalent nutritional problem in the world today," according to the authors, from the Rutgers University Department of Food Science and the Center for Advanced Food Technology in New Jersey and the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center, an international agricultural research center in Taiwan. They said their findings could help populations in developing countries, as well as vegetarians in developed nations, to boost their nutritional absorption of iron. They presented their research at the weeklong 219th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, which is expected to attract some 20,000 attendees.
"If you eat a vegetarian diet, there's extra iron available to you - and cooking can help you get the best out of what's available," said Rutgers researcher Tung-Ching Lee, who presented the findings. He said the approach of building on nutritional capabilities already locked in the vegetables offered a unique approach to solving dietary issues.
Cooking enhanced the bioavailability of iron in 37 of the 48 types of vegetables tested. Some 35 percent had low iron bioavailability when raw that was substantially enhanced by cooking. They included: