Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Raw Food vs. Cooked: Which Is Healthier?

Popular
Raw Food vs. Cooked: Which Is Healthier?

By Becky Bell

Cooking food can improve its taste, but it also changes the nutritional content.

Interestingly, some vitamins are lost when food is cooked, while others become more available for your body to use.

Some claim that eating primarily raw foods is the path to better health. However, certain cooked foods have clear nutritional benefits.

This article discusses the benefits of both raw and cooked foods.

What Is a Raw-Food Diet?

Raw foods are foods that have not been cooked or processed.

While there are varying levels of raw-food diets, all of them involve eating mostly unheated, uncooked and unprocessed foods. In general, a raw-food diet is made up of at least 70 percent raw foods.

The diet often includes fermented foods, sprouted grains, nuts and seeds, in addition to raw fruits and vegetables.

Many raw foodists consume a vegetarian or vegan diet, eliminating animal products and eating mostly raw plant foods. However, a small number also consume raw dairy products, fish and even raw meat.

Advocates claim that raw foods are more nutritious than cooked foods because enzymes, along with some nutrients, are destroyed in the cooking process. Some believe that cooked food is actually toxic.

While there are some clear benefits to eating raw fruits and vegetables, there are also some potential problems with a raw-food diet.

A strict raw-food diet is very difficult to follow and the number of people that stick to a completely raw diet in the long term is very small.

Furthermore, some foods contain dangerous bacteria and microorganisms that are only eliminated by cooking. Eating a completely raw diet that includes fish and meat comes with a risk of developing a food-borne illness.

Summary: Raw food diets involve eating mostly raw fruits and vegetables. Eating raw foods has some benefits, but there are also potential problems.

Cooking May Destroy Enzymes in Food

When you consume a food, digestive enzymes in your body help break it down into molecules that can be absorbed (1).

The food you eat also contains enzymes that aid digestion.

Enzymes are heat sensitive and deactivate easily when exposed to high temperatures. In fact, nearly all enzymes are deactivated at temperatures over 117 F (47 C) (2, 3).

This is one of the primary arguments in favor of raw-food diets. When a food's enzymes are altered during the cooking process, more enzymes are required from your body to digest it.

Proponents of raw-food diets claim that this puts stress on your body and can lead to enzyme deficiency. However, there are no scientific studies to support this claim.

Some scientists argue that the main purpose of food enzymes is to nourish the growth of the plant—not to help humans digest them.

Furthermore, the human body produces the enzymes necessary to digest food. And the body absorbs and re-secretes some enzymes, making it unlikely that digesting food will lead to an enzyme deficiency (4, 5).

Moreover, science has not yet demonstrated any adverse health effects of eating cooked foods with denatured enzymes.

Summary: Cooking foods deactivates the enzymes found in them. However, there is no evidence that food enzymes contribute to better health.

Some Water-Soluble Vitamins Are Lost in the Cooking Process

Raw foods may be richer in certain nutrients than cooked foods.

Some nutrients are easily deactivated or can leach out of food during the cooking process. Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and the B vitamins, are particularly susceptible to being lost during cooking (6, 7, 8, 9, 10).

In fact, boiling vegetables may reduce the content of water-soluble vitamins by as much as 50–60 percent (7, 9, 11).

Some minerals and vitamin A are also lost during cooking, although to a lesser extent. Fat-soluble vitamins D, E and K are mostly unaffected by cooking.

Boiling results in the greatest loss of nutrients, while other cooking methods more effectively preserve the nutrient content of food.

Steaming, roasting and stir-frying are some of the best methods of cooking vegetables when it comes to retaining nutrients (12, 13, 14, 15).

Lastly, the length of time that a food is exposed to heat affects its nutrient content. The longer a food is cooked, the greater the loss of nutrients (9).

Summary: Some nutrients, particularly water-soluble vitamins, are lost during the cooking process. Raw fruits and vegetables may contain more nutrients like vitamin C and B vitamins.

Cooked Food May Be Easier to Chew and Digest

Chewing is an important first step in the digestive process. The act of chewing breaks down large pieces of food into small particles that can be digested.

Improperly chewed food is much more difficult for the body to digest and can lead to gas and bloating. Additionally, it requires significantly more energy and effort to properly chew raw foods than cooked ones (16).

The process of cooking food breaks down some of its fibers and plant cell walls, making it easier for the body to digest and absorb the nutrients (17).

Cooking also generally improves the taste and aroma of food, which makes it much more enjoyable to eat.

Although the number of raw foodists who consume raw meat is small, meat is easier to chew and digest when it's cooked (18).

Properly cooking grains and legumes not only improves their digestibility, but it also reduces the number of anti-nutrients they contain. Anti-nutrients are compounds that inhibit the body's ability to absorb nutrients in plant foods.

The digestibility of a food is important because your body can only receive a food's health benefits if it's able to absorb the nutrients.

Some cooked foods may provide the body with more nutrients than their raw counterparts because they are easier to chew and digest.

Summary: Cooked foods are easier to chew and digest than raw foods. Proper digestion is necessary to absorb a food's nutrients.

Next Page
A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A new study invites parents of cancer patients to answer questions about their environment. FatCamera / Getty Images

By Jennifer Sass, Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, Dr. Philip J. Landrigan and Simon Strong

"Prevention is the cure for child/teen cancer." This is the welcoming statement on a website called 'TheReasonsWhy.Us', where families affected by childhood cancers can sign up for a landmark new study into the potential environmental causes.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Madagascar has been experiencing ongoing droughts and food insecurity since 2016. arturbo / Getty Images

Nearly 1.6 million people in the southern part of Madagascar have faced food insecurity since 2016, experiencing one drought after another, the United Nations World Food Program reported.

Read More Show Less
Lakota spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse attends a demonstration against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2015. Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to cancel the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on the first day of his administration, a document reported by CBC on Sunday suggests.

Read More Show Less
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst stand at the Orion spacecraft during a visit at the training unit of the Columbus space laboratory at the European Astronaut training centre of the European Space Agency ESA in Cologne, Germany on May 18, 2016. Ina Fassbender / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

By Monir Ghaedi

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep most of Europe on pause, the EU aims for a breakthrough in its space program. The continent is seeking more than just a self-sufficient space industry competitive with China and the U.S.; the industry must also fit into the European Green Deal.

Read More Show Less