While many vegetables do provide maximum nutrients in their raw states, such as lettuce and fruits, others are better cooked. For example, vitamin C is very stable in acidic foods that are uncooked, such as orange juice. So, drink that glass of Tropicana Pure Premium OJ confident you are getting a hefty dose of that important antioxidant.

Some nutrients, such as beta carotene, are better absorbed when vegetables are cooked. Cooking carrots, for example, releases the beta carotene from within cell walls, allowing your body to absorb a larger amount of beta carotene than if you ate raw carrot sticks. Cooking also slightly increases the availability of calcium, iron, and zinc in many vegetables.

However, vitamin C and folic acid are easily lost in cooking or when produce is stored at the store or in your refrigerator, or allowed to sit out, such as at buffet tables or at a cafeteria. For example, boiled vegetables lose up to 75% of their vitamin C. Overcooking results in hefty loses of nutrients. For example, raw green beans are good sources of beta carotene, vitamin C and folic acid. If you boil that same bean, 25% of the vitamin C is lost. If you choose frozen green beans and boil them, they lose about 20% of the beta carotene, 50% of the vitamin C, and most of the folic acid.

Your best bet is to choose some raw and some slightly cooked produce. While most people average only four servings, you actually need at least nine servings everyday. Aim for two servings at every meal and at least one at every snack. For example, that orange juice and a handful of berries at breakfast, watermelon chunks for a mid-morning snack, Fresh Express bagged spinach with grilled chicken at lunch, baby carrots mid-afternoon, and steamed broccoli and a sweet potato at dinner.