Raw vs. Cooked

I like the idea that we can use diet to maintain our health. Many people don’t realize that how one prepares the food can effect how nutritious the food is. I found the following essay by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a doctor located in Flemington, New Jersey who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional and natural methods.

He writes regarding eating exclusively raw:

Certainly, there are benefits to consuming plenty of raw fruits and vegetables. These foods supply us with high nutrient levels and are generally low in calories too. Eating lots of raw foods is a key feature of an anti-cancer diet style and a long life. But are there advantages to eating a diet of all raw foods and excluding all cooked foods? The answer is a resounding “No”. In fact, eating an exclusively raw-food diet is a disadvantage. Excluding all steamed vegetables and vegetable soups from your diet narrows your nutrient diversity and has a tendency to reduce the percentage of calories from vegetables in favor of nuts and fruits which are lower in nutrients per calorie.

He explains about the sort of cooked food that is unhealthy:

Unfortunately, sloppy science prevails in the raw-food movement. Raw food advocates mistakenly conclude that since many cooked foods are not healthy for us, then all cooked foods are bad. This is not true.

The idea that stirs the most enthusiasm for this diet is the contention that cooking both destroys about fifty percent of the nutrients in food, and destroys all or most of the life promoting enzymes. It is true that when food is baked at high temperatures—and especially when it is fried or barbecued—toxic compounds are formed and most important nutrients are lost. Many vitamins are water-soluble, and a significant percent can be lost with cooking, especially overcooking. Similarly, many plant enzymes function as phytochemical nutrients in our body and are useful to maximize health. They, too, can be destroyed by overcooking. However, we cannot paint with this brush of negativity over every form of cooking.

Here he tells us that we can get even more nutrients by preparing a food in soup:

Only small amounts of nutrients are lost with conservative cooking like making a soup, but many more nutrients are made more absorbable. These nutrients would have been lost if those vegetables had been consumed raw. When we heat, soften and moisturize the vegetables and beans we dramatically increase the potential digestibility and absorption of many beneficial and nutritious compounds. We also increase the plant proteins in the diet, especially important for those eating a plant-based diet with limited or no animal products.

Steamed is good, roasting not so good:

In many cases, cooking actually destroys some of the harmful anti-nutrients that bind minerals in the gut and interfere with the utilization of nutrients. Destruction of these anti-nutrients increases absorption. Steaming vegetables and making vegetable soups breaks down cellulose and alters the plants’ cell structures so that fewer of your own enzymes are needed to digest the food, not more. On the other hand, the roasting of nuts and the baking of cereals does reduce availability and absorbability of protein.

 Read the whole essay.

13 thoughts on “Raw vs. Cooked

  • As a kid, I didn’t like soups now I really do. As for raw food, I eat more of it in summer and also at weekends when I have more time to make salads.
    One of the things that motivate me to cook is reading labels on processed food. There is so much rubbish in what we by that it is frightening. I realize I am slightly off topic now.

  • Ilana-Davita, not at all off topic. Anything related to health and food goes for comments, I would suggest.

    I try to buy foods with the fewer labels, the better. Unfortunately, my kids like those foods with all those labels…

    The only kind of soup my kids will eat is chicken soup. If the chicken soup is too vegetably, my eldest won’t eat it. Now that the holidays are over, I’m happy to be back to making vegetable and bean soups for my husband and myself. Occasionally my daughter tries it. If she wasn’t growing up with such picky older brothers, she might try more “exotic” foods.

  • picky older brothers
    I’m still amazed at all the things my oldest son has learned to eat now that he’s in yeshiva. (He sleeps at home every night but eats most of his meals in school.) I guess that there’s hope for some of my other kids who are even pickier eaters…

  • I knew that frying food wasn’t healthy because of the oil. But I never thought that the actual cooking of food can get rid of it’s enzymes and other healthy stuff from it.

    That is very interesting about the soups. I do love squash in soup. But carrots I don’t like in the soup only raw.

    I know people who get steamed vegetables when their on a diet. It makes sense that it should be easier to eat when its soft and cooked.

    Although it’s interesting you say that your older boys are picky eaters and will only eat your chicken soup. That makes sense, cause at first I was wondering if they ate all the cooked recipe stuff you had shown in previous posts, and it always seemed like it was too adultish.

  • Babysitter, you caught me! I hardly ever post recipes to the stuff they like. Mac and cheese? boring. Wacky macs? We slightly amend the instructions on the package. How about warm up boxed pizza from the freezer? A favorite meal. Seven Bean Soup by Rokeach, they like that one. Meatballs. Not too much tomato sauce in it, though. I make homemade challah each week and homemade potato kugel often: both are foods they like a lot.

  • Pizza seems to be a favorite meal everywhere (although I don’t like it). I’m not sure what seven bean soup is, although I remember in school they sometimes gave some type of been soup for lunch. Yea, meatballs are good, I used to eat it with the sauce, then I became a plain person and don’t like tomato sauce. Although I know kids that gobble that stuff up.

    That’s great you make homemade Challah and potato kugel, those are classics! I’ll always remember what one of my HS teachers said, that a mothers homemade cooking is the best way to show love, and make the kids happy, healthy and everything. He also said to bake chocolate chip cookies for your husband and kids, that it’s the best snack for the kids when they come home from school. And that basically the kids feel the love from the mother by the work she put into her food.

    I bought a cook book once, to try to practice making something, but I’ve yet to make any of it. Although we did have home ec in HS, where we learned some recipes and I had made some of the stuff, which I actually loved. One was ice cream, another ambrosia and the 3rd was Honey cake. There were other stuff too, but I don’t remember what.

  • Babysitter, I try to stick to the healthy stuff.

    >ice cream, another ambrosia and the 3rd was Honey cake
    All made with sugar. They probably never taught you that sugar is bad for you, huh? sigh.

  • We had a nutrition class with a different teacher who taught us that stuff. But I like sugar so that’s why I liked those recipes, she also did more healthy recipes but I guess I didn’t like those or they were too complicated.

  • Thanks for this – I encounter raw-only advocates and its been my intuition that this all-or-none eating style leads to a lack of overall nutrition. Your physician clarified with facts.

  • I agree that not all cooked foods are bad. It’s usually in how they are cooked or what they are cooked with that can be called into question. I do feel that less cooked is better but I’m not against it, esp in my current state. 🙂 For me, I have a hard time being committed to 100% raw due to my love of beans and homemade ones are best and of course healthier than ones found in a can. But I also believe there are people, such as my husband, who can happily sustain themselves being 100% raw and not look back on another cooked item so my whole belief is “whatever YOU feel is best for YOU” is the way to go. And that can mean anything. Because if one is on strictly raw foods and not happy what is the point? Or vice versa. Anyway, I think I’m rambling but love the attention this topic is getting. Thanks Leora! And I love that you are health-conscious with your family as well.

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