What is the Difference Between Steamed and Raw Vegetables?

Amy Hunter

Steamed and raw vegetables are two of the most healthful ways to prepare vegetables. Although both styles are very healthy, there are differences between the two. Raw vegetables, as the name implies, are vegetables that have been prepared for eating by cleaning and perhaps slicing. Steamed vegetables have been cleaned and perhaps sliced, but they have also been steamed.

A selection of raw vegetables, including broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, and others.
A selection of raw vegetables, including broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, and others.

Steaming is the process of cooking over hot water. The vegetables are often placed in a metal basket that is then placed over a pan of boiling water. The steam from the boiling water heats the vegetables in the basket, cooking them. Steaming a vegetable has many advantages over the more traditional vegetable preparation method of boiling.

Steaming vegetables entails cooking the vegetables in the steam of boiling water.
Steaming vegetables entails cooking the vegetables in the steam of boiling water.

Steamed and raw vegetables both retain many more of their vitamins and minerals than vegetables that are boiled. When people boil vegetables, they typically cook them for an extended period of time. They drain the water from the vegetables, rinsing away most of the nutrients as well.

The short period of time that a vegetable is steamed, as well as the fact that it is not immersed in water, allows it to retain most of its vitamins and minerals. Compare a plate of steamed green beans to a plate of boiled green beans. The steamed beans will be vibrantly green and crisp-tender, while the boiled beans will be a pale shade of green and very limp. It is easy to see which style retains more of its original, raw characteristics.

While most vegetable that are served raw are more nutritious than even steamed vegetable, steaming does have an advantage over raw. Many vegetables, such as broccoli, are difficult for some people to digest raw. Eating a wide variety of vegetables is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. If you avoid certain vegetables because they bother your stomach, you are shortchanging your health. Steaming vegetables that you find difficult to digest can make them easier on your stomach.

Steamed and raw vegetables can be dressed up in a variety of ways. If your favorite vegetable recipes call for cheese sauce or French fried onions, don’t get discouraged. A drizzle of olive oil, the addition of spices such as rosemary or sage or some coarsely ground sea salt can all liven up the taste of steamed and raw vegetables. It may take some trial and error to find your favorite combination, but keep experimenting.

Raw vegetables are prepared for eating by cleaning and possibly slicing, and nothing else.
Raw vegetables are prepared for eating by cleaning and possibly slicing, and nothing else.

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Discussion Comments


In my family we have a crazy aunt. I get the feeling that there is a crazy aunt in most families. She is eccentric in lots of ways but one of her stranger quirks has to do with the subject of this article exactly.

My aunt insists on eating equal and identical amounts of both raw and steamed vegetables. So if she eats one steamed baby carrot she will also eat one raw baby carrot. For every steamed green bean she has to eat a raw green bean. She actually arranges them on he plate divided down the middle so that one half is cooked food and the other is raw. It is really strange to say the least.

It was always kind of a headache when she would come over for family meals but my mom got used to cooking to accommodate her strange tastes. And as weird as it was it was pretty harmless. In fact she was probably in great health because of the way she ate. But I could never follow her diet. I will take a big plate of nachos any day.


I think there are advantages to eating both cooked and uncooked food. I am a big believer in the raw foods movement, but I am practical enough to realize that eating all raw all the time is both a huge burden and not necessarily great for your health.

For that reason I try to eat a big portion of my vegetables raw but I will also occasionally eat cooked grains. I think this kind of balance is necessary for any diet. There is no one perfect way to eat. The goal should be to eat a great variety of healthy foods in moderation. Some raw, some cooked.


@simrin-- Yes, that happens because raw vegetables have a lot of cellulose that's very hard for our system to digest.

When vegetables are steamed, it breaks down the cellulose and helps us digest and also helps us absorb more of the vitamins.

I love raw vegetables and I do experience bloating from it at times. There are tablets which you can take before having raw vegetables that helps to digest. Or you can just opt to have the vegetables steamed.


I think the main difference between steamed and raw vegetables has to do with their digestion.

I don't know why but whenever I have raw vegetables, I have terrible bloating and acid. I feel like I am unable to digest it properly and always end up having to take antacids to help with the horrible effects.

I never have this problem with steamed vegetables. Does anyone know why?


Raw vegetables might have more vitamins than steamed, but I've also heard that some beneficial enzymes in vegetables become active when they have been slightly heated.

I heard from a doctor on TV that for example, we should steam tomatoes before eating them. Apparently, steaming turns on the enzymes in tomatoes without killing the vitamins so they are even healthier and beneficial than raw.

I think Asian cooking is the best because steaming is a very popular way of eating vegetables in Asia. I think we need incorporate more steamed veggies in our diet.

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