raw vs. cooked foods which is best?

Cooked or raw is an ongoing debate in a world of dietary extremes. We always want to hear definitive, clear answers to complicated questions, and this one is complicated as well. Polarizing views emerge over raw food versus cooked food, but the answer is not always clear. Raw food advocates insist that cooking food (or heating it over a certain temperature) goes against our very nature as humans. In contrast, cooked food advocates argue that the cooking of food changes it chemically, and in doing so causes certain reactions which help our bodies in digestion. So which is true, and which are you an advocate of, cooked or raw?

Cooked or raw foods offer different nutrients, depending on the produce

Let’s consider the raw food diet. Recent studies have suggested that raw food should make up the majority of a balanced diet. Many foods, when cooked, lose much of the nutrients that they inherently possessed. Thus, by cooking these foods, we are removing potential benefits that we may receive from eating them raw. Eating these foods raw allows us to get the full benefit of the enzymes natural to the foods. This is particularly true with many fruits and vegetables.

However, cooked food advocates would argue that other foodstuffs are only so beneficial to us because of the cooking process, and they would be right. Certain fruits, like tomatoes, release certain antioxidants when heated. These antioxidants are extremely helpful in reducing the risk of cancerous cells growing in our body. Similarly, some vegetables like asparagus also release more nutrients when boiled or steamed than in their raw form. This would lend further weight to the argument that cooked foods are better for your long-term health.

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However, cooked food advocates would argue that other foodstuffs are only so beneficial to us because of the cooking process, and they would be right. Certain fruits, like tomatoes, release certain antioxidants when heated. These antioxidants are extremely helpful in reducing the risk of cancerous cells growing in our body. Similarly, some vegetables like asparagus also release more nutrients when boiled or steamed than in their raw form. This would lend further weight to the argument that cooked foods are better for your long-term health.

Which wins, cooked or raw?

As with many dietary this or that questions, the answer is somewhere in the middle. There are some foods that are better eaten raw. On the other side, there are some foods that are better cooked. What does this tell us? Well, we should probably eat some raw foods and some cooked foods. Yes, it really is that simple. There is no right or wrong absolute approach, merely common sense. If cooking a food is better for you, then you should cook it. If eating it raw is more beneficial, then eat it raw.

As any health guru should tell you, the key to healthy eating is all about balance. That balance includes a balance between cooked and raw. Decide for yourself which you prefer, and go for it. In any case, here are a few produce choices that most research centers advise to eat cooked:

Carrots. According to a 2008 report in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, boiling or steaming carrots made its antioxidants, most notably carotenoids, more ready available to the body. You can achieve a similar benefit from raw, but make sure you chew them especially well, to cut down on the rough, cellular carrot wall.

Cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables include arugula, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, radishes, watercress and rutabaga. I’ll admit, I like a few of these raw. But I’m not as struck as I was about eating raw, since hypothyroidism is a problem I deal with. Just a little light steaming, blanching or stir fry makes all the difference. The vegetables do no need to be cooked to mush, like may of our mothers and grandmothers used to do.

Nightshade vegetables. Solanine is a glycoalkaloid poison found in species of the nightshade family, such as potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants. While some people do eat nightshade vegetables raw and rave about the benefits, those with sensitive stomachs should consider sticking with cooking.

What are your preferences and why? Share your ideas, thanks!

 

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