Cooking has several general nutritional benefits. It eliminates potentially harmful microbes. By softening and concentrating foods, it also makes them easier to eat in significant quantities. And it actually improves the availability of some nutrients. Two of the most important are starch and the carotenoid pigments. Starch consists of long chains of sugar molecules crammed into masses called granules. Our digestive enzymes can’t penetrate past the outer layer of raw starch granules, but cooking unpacks the starch chains and lets our enzymes break them down. Then there are beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, its chemical relative lycopene, an important antioxidant, and other valuable carotenoid pigments.