Quantcast
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
Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
PxHere

This Common Preservative in Processed Food May Be Making You Tired

By Brian Mastroianni

Is it hard to motivate yourself to get off the couch and go exercise?

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
MarioGuti / iStock / Getty Images

EVs 101: Your Guide to Electric Vehicles

By Patrick Rogers

If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
An adult bush dog, part of a captive breeding program. Hudson Garcia

A Rescue Dog Is Now Helping to Save Other (Much Wilder) Dogs

By Jason Bittel

Formidable predators stalk the forests between Panama and northern Argentina. They are sometimes heard but never seen. They are small but feisty and have even been documented trying to take down a tapir, which can top out at nearly 400 pounds. Chupacabras? No.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
RoNeDya / iStock / Getty Images

What Is Mead, and Is It Good for You?

By Ansley Hill, RD, LD

Mead is a fermented beverage traditionally made from honey, water and a yeast or bacterial culture.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
U.S. Army member helps clear debris from Tyndall Air Force Base following Hurricane Michael. U.S. Army

Pentagon: Climate Change Is Real and a 'National Security Issue'

The Pentagon released a Congressionally mandated report (pdf) that warns flooding, drought and wildfires and other effects of climate change puts U.S. military bases at risk.

The 22-page analysis states plainly: "The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense (DoD or the Department) missions, operational plans, and installations."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Protesters interrupt the confirmation hearing for Andrew Wheeler on Capitol Hill Jan. 16 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

5 People Calling Out EPA Acting Head Wheeler for Putting Polluters First

This week, people across the country are joining environmental leaders to speak out against the nomination of former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to lead the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As Scott Pruitt's hand-picked successor, Wheeler has continued to put polluters over people, most recently by using the last of his agency's funding before it expired in the government shutdown to announce plans to allow power plants to spew toxic mercury and other hazardous pollution into the air.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Great white shark. Elias Levy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Marine Biologists Raise Flags About Viral Great White Shark Encounter

By now you might have seen Ocean Ramsey's rare and jaw-dropping encounter with a great white shark in waters near Oahu, Hawaii.

Ramsey, a marine biologist, said on the TODAY Show that it was "absolutely breathtaking and heart-melting" to be approached by the massive marine mammal.

Keep reading... Show less
A tree found severed in half in an act of vandalism in Joshua Tree National Park. Gina Ferazzi / Los AngelesTimes / Getty Images

Wall Before Country Takes Mounting Toll on Americans Everywhere

By Rhea Suh

One month on, the longest and most senseless U.S. government shutdown in history is taking a grave and growing toll on the environment and public health.

Food inspectors have been idled or are working without pay, increasing the risk we'll get sick from eating produce, meat and poultry that isn't properly checked. National parks and public wilderness lands are overrun by vandals, overtaken by off-road joyriders, and overflowing with trash. Federal testing of air and water quality, as well as monitoring of pollution levels from factories, incinerators and other sources, is on hold or sharply curtailed. Citizen input on critical environmental issues is being hindered. Vital research and data collection are being sidelined.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!