Raw Food vs Cooked Food: Which is More Nutritious?
Raw foods and their benefits have gained much currency in the last decade. They have routinely headlined diet fads with a promise to heal and significantly improve one’s health. This has also led to the dilemma of whether to include cooked or raw food in one’s diet. As it turns out, both have their advantages and disadvantages.
What are raw foods?
Raw foods mainly refer to unheated, unprocessed, and uncooked foods (in some cases, food cooked below 470C is also considered raw). Some popular types include raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, fermented foods, sprouted grains, dairy, and fish.
How is raw food beneficial for the body?
Fruits and vegetables contain natural digestive enzymes and are richer in essential water-soluble vitamins like vitamins C and B, which are destroyed when food is cooked.
Raw foods have several other benefits:
1. Weight loss
A small amount of raw food will make you feel fuller much quickly than cooked food. Plus, cooked food generally has more calories owing to the use of oil, ghee, and butter that are used to prepare it. Therefore, raw foods may aid weight loss.
2. May prevent inflammation
Inflammation encourages the development of diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and heart problems. Phytochemicals (compounds that contribute to color, taste, and smell in plant foods) can be found in much higher amounts in raw foods. These phytochemicals may help prevent inflammation, which helps you fight other diseases.
3. Increased consumption of nutrient-dense foods
Raw foods also include unprocessed foods, that are typically richer in nutrients and lower in sugar, unhealthy fats, artificial ingredients, and other additives.
Consuming raw foods has some potential risks as well.
Risks of raw foods
Eating only raw foods may be nutritionally unbalanced and lead to deficiencies of vitamins B12 and D, iodine, and calcium. Moreover, raw meat, poultry, some wild mushrooms, potatoes, bitter almonds, and kidney beans may cause food poisoning, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Sometimes vegetables, like bottle gourd and arbi (taro), which turn bitter, may also be fatal if eaten raw.
How is cooked food beneficial?
Cooking improves the taste and aroma of food, therefore making eating more enjoyable. Moreover, it makes it easier for your body to digest and absorb nutrients. It also safeguards the food by breaking down toxic chemicals like phytates (raw sprouts), solanines (raw potatoes), lectins (raw kidney beans), and may reduce the risk of food poisoning. Cooking also ensures that healthy antioxidants like beta-carotene and lutein become available to your body.
Check out these cooked foods, which provide more benefits than their raw counterparts:
1. Grains and legumes
Properly cooking grains and legumes not only improves their digestibility, but also reduces the number of anti-nutrients they contain. Anti-nutrients inhibit the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from plant foods.
2. Meat, eggs, and fish
Cooking kills harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E-coli, or listeria bacteria, which are present in raw eggs, uncooked meat, sprouts, milk, and fish. If consumed uncooked, these may cause food poisoning.
The antioxidant capacity and content of plant compounds found in carrots, spinach, and asparagus increases by cooking. The total antioxidant capacity of tomatoes increases by over 60% when they are cooked, while cooking mushrooms helps degrade agaritine, a potential carcinogen present in them.
Risks of cooked foods
Cooking fruits and vegetables can reduce the bioavailability of certain micronutrients, such as vitamins C and B, along with phytochemicals like retinol and thiamin. Completely avoiding raw foods can be a risk factor for heart health, too.
Raw or cooked?
If you choose to eat more raw food, begin by incorporating elements of it into your daily diet. Before eating raw vegetables, wash them thoroughly with drinking water and rinse with a light salt solution or apple cider vinegar. A pressure cooker is a fast and efficient way of cooking to prevent nutrient loss. Eat local and seasonal when possible. An increased intake of fruits and vegetables and a reduction in processed food can benefit most people. As some foods are more nutritious when eaten raw and others are more nutritious after being cooked, it’s better to balance it out for a healthy and well-rounded diet.
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