Essentially it comes down to one word: Bioavailability.
The definition of this word is: "the degree and rate at which a substance (as a drug) is absorbed into a living system or is made available at the site of physiological activity.”
In other words, it means that the more available the nutrition is, the better it is for your bird. If she eats a food and none of the nutrition is absorbed, it doesn’t do her any good.
Some nutrition in certain foods become more available to the system if they are cooked first.
Carrots, spinach, asparagus, cabbage, and peppers supply more antioxidants to the body after steaming or boiling.
Another study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2002 in 2002 showed that cooking carrots increases the level of beta-carotene found in them. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant. This antioxidant, called a carotenoid is what give fruits and vegetables their bright and bold color. When you ingest these brightly colored vegetables, your body converts the beta-carotene found in the vegetable into Vitamin A.
Vitamin A is a really important substance and is crucial to maintaining vision, bone growth and maintenance, the reproductive system, as well as maintaining and regulating your bird’s immune system.
Lycopene is an important nutrient found in red-colored berries and some fruits. One benefit of a diet rich in lycopene is that it has been found to have something to do with lower rates of cancer as it is a very potent antioxidant. Why are antioxidants important? To be honest, I knew very little about the subject so I had to do the research. Here’s what I found out:
Oxidation of cells causes free radicals which can start a chain reaction in cells. When this happens, it can cause death or damage to the cell. This damage is called oxidative stress and it is thought to be one of the causes of cancer. Antioxidants prevent this damage from happening. It’s a lot more complicated than that, but that’s pretty much sums it up as simply as I could.
The takeaway of this is that cooking certain vegetables enhances the value of them by increasing the quality and content of the lycopene it contains.
There is a downside to cooking vegetables, however. The issue lies in the fact that when you cook a vegetable, it destroys the Vitamin C contained in the vegetable.
However, cooking vegetables breaks down the cell walls of the vegetable making the beneficial vitamins and other resources easier to absorb.
There are exceptions to this factor of bioavailability (Isn’t there always?) and broccoli is one vegetable that is better for you eaten raw. Watercress is also better raw, although I’ve really never heard of anyone cooking watercress as it is such a delicate plant.
So how can you preserve the beneficial properties of your vegetables?
Purchase local produce. Transporting produce is hard on it and it loses its intrinsic goodness over time. So buy what’s local, fresh and what is in season.
- Add a little healthy oil like coconut or hemp seed oil. Some vegetables contain fat-soluble vitamins and the addition of a healthy oil to your flock’s diet helps make these vitamins more bioavailable.
- At certain times of the year, frozen produce is actually better in quality than fresh. It is frozen just hours after picking and the flash freezing process preserves the vitamin content of the produce.
- A balance of raw and cooked produce is the way to go with your bird’s diet. By offering both you are in effect, covering all the nutritional bases and giving them the best of both worlds.
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