The matter of raw vs cooked food is an intriguing one in nutrition. Ever wonder why humans cook their food, when every other species eats it raw? Animals obviously are designed to eat raw food, since they have no ability to cook. But should we consider changing to a raw food diet as well? Or is there some uniqueness to humans that requires us to raise our food to high temperatures before consuming it?
When it comes to fish and meats, clearly there are food pathogens that create problems for humans unless we process that food by cooking. True carnivorous animals don't need to cook their meat because they have very strong stomach acid to digest and disinfect it. But fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds are a different story. These can be, and should be, eaten raw whenever possible. The very fact that these foods can be eaten without any cooking or processing to me strongly indicates that they are the foods most naturally suited to humans.
The food industry likes cooking, even cooking of fruits and vegetables that could be easily eaten raw. They want the ability to ship foods globally and give them a shelf life well into the next decade. Unfortunately, real food doesn't do that. Nutrients have very limited temperature tolerance. Enzymes in food are lost at only 120 degrees Fahrenheit. And many vitamins are degraded at temperatures well below the boiling point. Minerals, although technically not destroyed by heat, can be uncoupled from their carrier molecules making them unavailable to the body. So raw food health benefits come primarily by preventing nutrient and enzyme loss, as well as avoiding the creation of toxins, such as healthy fats changing to their unhealthy trans fat cousins.
If you do choose to cook, bear in mind that steaming loses less nutrients than boiling does. Higher temperature processes like frying and dry roasting lose the most. And in general, shorter cooking times lose less nutrients than longer cooking times. I do suggest washing raw fruits and veggies, since pesticides, wax, even food coloring can be on them, and contamination can be picked up from food handlers.
The bottom line, try changing to a higher percentage of raw food in your diet. It not only has health benefits, but it requires much less work, and its a quick gauge of how natural or processed your diet is.
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