To cook or not to cook? Is raw food healthier that cooked food? It’s not so easy to answer these questions! Interestingly, some foods are better for you when raw, and some could offer useful health benefits when they’re cooked.
Kerry Torrens, qualified Nutritionist (MBANT), explained the benefits of raw and cooked foods in an interesting article on BBC Goodfood. Here below what you should know about raw and cooked food:
RAW VS COOKED
Raw foods are foods that have not been cooked or processed. Eating fruit and vegetables raw is sometimes the healthier option because, as you can imagine, some vitamins are sensitive to heat. Did you know that cooking tomatoes for just two minutes decreases their vitamin C content by 10%? However, while cooking may cause the loss of some valuable nutrients, like vitamin C, there are some vegetables which could benefit from a little heat.
Heat it up
These include asparagus, carrots, and even tomatoes, “because cooking makes it easier for our bodies to benefit from some of their protective antioxidants, specifically ferulic acid from asparagus, and beta-carotene, which we convert to vitamin A, from carrots. Similarly, when you cook tomatoes – whether you roast them slowly or make a cooked sauce – it helps to break down the plant cell walls, allowing us to better absorb the antioxidant lycopene. All these nutrients help to safeguard our cells from environmental damage, may protect us from certain cancers and are heart-friendly.”
Furthermore, some foods such as meat and eggs, can contain harmful bacteria that are only eliminated by cooking.
Keep it raw
On the other hand, there are certainly some foods, which benefit from being eaten raw. These include veg like broccoli and cabbage which, when heated, they reduce the presence of helpful anti-cancer compound. Also garlic should be added just before you finish cooking rather than at the start because heat reduces its amount of health-promoting allicin.
Furthermore, eating some fruit and veg raw can help fill you up because raw fruit and veg tend to be bulkier and have a higher water content. So, they are good for those watching their weight!
IT DEPENDS ON THE FOOD
Although some nutrients are sensitive to heat there are others, like the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), which are unaffected. So, whether you choose to eat your fruit and vegetables raw or cooked make sure you:
- Buy local and organic produce
- Prepare your fruit or veg just before you need them
- Avoid losing water-soluble vitamins (like the vitamin B group and vitamin C), by choosing cooking methods which use the minimal amount of water or preferably no water at all, like roasting.
- Balance your intake: Enjoy crunchy raw veg to top up on immune-busting vitamin C, and cook others for their mix of protective antioxidants.
Foods that are healthier raw:
- Broccoli: Raw broccoli contains three times the amount of cancer-fighting plant compound than cooked broccoli does
- Cabbage: Cooking cabbage destroys the enzyme myrosinase, which plays a role in cancer prevention.
- Onions: Raw onion is an anti-platelet agent, which contributes to heart disease prevention.
- Garlic: Sulfur compounds found in raw garlic have anti-cancer properties.
Foods that are healthier cooked:
- Asparagus: Cooking asparagus breaks down its fibrous cell walls, making folate and vitamins A, C and E more available to be absorbed.
- Spinach: Nutrients like iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc are more available for absorption when spinach is cooked.
- Tomatoes: Cooking greatly increases the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes
- Carrots: Cooked carrots contain more beta-carotene than raw carrots
- Potatoes: The starch in potatoes is nearly indigestible until a potato is cooked.
- Legumes: Raw or undercooked legumes contain dangerous toxins called lectins. Lectins are eliminated with cooking.
- Meat and fish: Raw meat and fish may contain bacteria that can cause food-borne illnesses.