Raw vegetables are one of the most abundant foods provided by Mother Nature. Rich in vitamins, minerals and natural enzymes, they are alkaline-forming in the body, contributing to overall good health. They are also a great source of fiber for the colon. Regardless of these accolades, many people who eat them experience bloating, gas and abdominal pain.

Digestive Process

The human digestive system is extensive, including a large number of organs that utilize chemicals and enzymes in order to accomplish digestion. Digestion is the process of breaking down foods into molecular structures that our bodies can use as nutrition. The categories of foods that are broken down through the digestive system are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. The body has specific chemical processes that digest each of these categories separately and in varying time frames.

Absorption vs. Digestion

If food is not digested properly, the carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals are not being absorbed. Digestion and absorption must happen in order for your body to take full advantage of any food, especially vegetables. If eating raw vegetables is burdening your digestive system, consider cooking certain vegetables or using digestive aids.

Advantages of Cooked Vegetables

The human body can absorb 98 percent of the starch from cooked potatoes, much more than from raw. Also, cooking cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, Swiss chard and collard, mustard and turnip greens) helps break down the fiber so that more nutrients can be absorbed.

Cooking carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage, peppers and many other vegetables also supplies more antioxidants, such as carotenoids and ferulic acid, to the body than they do when raw, says Rui Hai Liu, an associate professor of food science at Cornell University. On the flip side, cooking can destroy the high levels of vitamin C found in certain vegetables, as well as naturally occurring enzymes that assist digestion.

Aiding Digestion

Although the digestive complaints associated with raw vegetables are not considered “serious” by many sufferers, they still deserve attention because a sluggish bowel can eventually contribute to much larger problems such as indigestion, malabsorption and food sensitivities leading to irritable bowel syndrome or cancer. Adding naturally occurring digestive enzymes to your diet such as aloe vera (nature’s digestive aid) or papain (aids in digestion of protein) can make a big difference. By taking digestive enzymes prior to each meal, you can expect better digestion.