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RAW vs COOKED FOOD

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There is considerable debate about the pros and cons of various popular diets including diets that lean heavily towards meat consumption, like the Paleo Diet, versus vegetarian plant-based diets. Some vegetarians will eat eggs and dairy products with the rationale that animals are not killed in the harvesting of eggs and milk. “Vegan” vegetarians do not eat any animal products, including eggs and milk or other dairy products. There is yet another subset of, usually vegetarian although a very small number of meat eaters fall into this category, people who believe that humans are designed to eat only raw food. All sides have plausible arguments, although we really don’t know exactly what all of our ancestors ate. We know that some of them ate meat. We also know that gorillas, with whom we share common ancestors and 98% of our DNA, are primarily vegan with the exception of some insects.

RAW IS TIME CONSUMING

One of the problems with eating nothing but raw fruits and vegetables, or even primarily raw fruits and vegetables, is that it would require over 50% of our waking life to chew what we would need to survive and be healthy. We basically would never be able to do anything else but gather, prepare, and eat food. People who eat primarily raw food are heavily dependent on electric blenders to “pre-chew” the food so it can be broken down and digested faster, as well as consumed faster. A “smoothie” made of 2 quarts of raw vegetables that would take an hour or more to chew will blend down to a couple of cups of pulpy liquid that you can drink in minutes. The blender probably does a better job of “chewing” than we do, which is also going to cut down on digestion time.

COOKED FOOD CAN LOSE NUTRIENTS

Cooked food is already partially broken down and is easier to digest than raw food. Cooking usually reduces the volume of food, making it easier to consume more food in much less time, which is appealing in our fast-pace world but can also contribute to overeating. Cooked food also makes many more nutrients available to us. However, the flip side of this is heat, especially high heat and prolonged heat, destroys some nutrients, especially the water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C and the B vitamins. Some minerals, like potassium, leach out of vegetables into cooking liquid. So vegetables that contain significant amounts of potassium, like carrots and potatoes among others, should not be boiled in water with the water thrown away. It is best to steam, bake, grill, broil, sauté, or roast vegetables to maintain more of the nutrients. If vegetables are cooked in water, the water should be consumed rather than discarded, as you would do with soup or stew for instance. You can also save cooking water as stock to use later.

DIGESTIVE ENZYMES

While cooking food makes more nutrients available to our bodies, makes it possible to consume more food in less time, and makes digestion easier because the food is already partially broken down, raw vegetables have enzymes and microbes that aid in digestion. These enzymes and beneficial bacteria contribute to good gut health and are often destroyed when cooked. The digestive tract, which is comprised mostly of the stomach and intestines, are referred to as the “gut”. Gut health is very important, not just for physical health but also for mental health. The gut is sometimes called the “second brain” because some of the neurotransmitters that are known to be involved in the prevention and treatment of depression and anxiety are produced in the gut as well as in the brain. Proper digestion is important to maximize the benefits of the food we eat. If we are not digesting our food properly, many of the nutrients we consume will pass through our digestive tract without being used. The nutrients we need to produce beneficial neurotransmitters in the brain depend on those nutrients being extracted and entering the blood stream, which begins with a fully functioning digestive tract.

PROBIOTICS

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria contained in fermented foods like yogurt, aged cheese, and sauerkraut. Probiotics are important for gut health because they aid in digestion. Probiotics are the “flora” in our digestive system that helps create a healthy digestive environment. Other examples of fermented foods are pickled cucumbers, pickled beets, bread, tofu, kimchi, ketchup, miso, sour cream, cottage cheese, tempeh, raw apple cider vinegar, Tabasco sauce, and soy sauce. Some examples of fermented beverages include alcoholic beverages like wine and beer. Non-alcoholic fermented beverages include root beer, kefir, cultured buttermilk, and ginger ale.

VARIETY COVERS ALL THE BASES

To ensure good gut health, we should eat a wide variety of both cooked and raw food every day. Fermented foods and beverages should be included in our diets regularly and frequently. Gut stress can happen as a result of sickness, use of antibiotics, overeating or undereating. Gut stress can deplete its supply of probiotics quickly. During and after any episode of gut stress, it is especially important to restore a healthy population of beneficial bacteria by eating foods rich in probiotics.

I usually like to start the day with a raw green smoothie, partly because they are packed full of nutrition but also because I like to introduce all those good digestive enzymes first thing. At lunch I usually have a raw green salad with some fermented foods like beets and feta cheese or blue cheese. The last meal of the day is generally the one where I eat cooked food. When eating a meal of cooked food, it is a good idea to eat some raw food first, even if it is just a small amount. If I don’t have a small salad, I try to at least nibble on celery, cucumber or carrot sticks while I’m preparing the meal. This adds fresh enzymes for digesting that the cooked food won’t provide. A glass of wine with dinner will also add beneficial probiotics.

Eating a variety of whole, healthy food is the best way to insure good gut health and good mental health!

One Response to “RAW vs COOKED FOOD”

  1. Ahron says:

    on LOVE this article. We sotimemes shop at a local farmer’s market during the growing season,… on I second the recommendations to nurse until your child self-weans and then try goat’s milk;… on

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