The Risks & Benefits of Raw Food Compared to Cooked Food

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Practitioners of raw food therapy insist that cooked food can have adverse effects on our health in the long term.

This is an assertion that doesn’t seem to make much sense to most folks. Food must be cooked for it to be palatable. Cooking is also necessary to eliminate bacteria and parasites that cause diseases.

What kind of harm can cooked food do?

Raw food practitioners point out some `hurting’ truths.

They stress that man is the only being that cooks its food. Therefore he falls sick more often than other animals. Practitioners of raw food therapy believe that food, when cooked, loses its life force and when we eat `dead’ food, our bodies lose out on the benefits which other animals gain. They ask, “How many animals fall sick unless they eat food prepared by humans?”

The practitioners say man cook food mainly for taste. He cooks them because he could add condiments and other taste-enhancers to make them palatable.

Tasty food leads to overeating. Overeating can lead to indigestion which in turn contributes to various diseases.

They say the food business, from fast food restaurants to snacks manufacturers, rely on cooked items to thrive. These are the areas where overeating takes place and statistics have shown the fast food culture has given rise to alarming cases of obesity which, in turn, contributes to such ailments as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart troubles.

The other assertion, albeit scientifically proven, is food, when cooked, loses most of its nutrients and enzymes. Carbohydrates and proteins in cooked food are not easily absorbed by our bodies. The body loses out on important nutrients when cooked food is consumed.

Should these `hurting’ truths lead us to give up on cooked food?

Well, let’s look at some `heartening’ truths first before coming to a decision.

According to Helen Rasmussen, a dietician at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tuft University, minerals such as calcium and zinc will not lose their powers much when food containing them is cooked. However, water-soluble vitamins like Vitamins C and B are lost in cooked food.

Tomatoes contain an antioxidant known as lycopene which studies have shown retard the growth of prostate, breast and lung cancer cells. While Vitamin C and folate is lost in cooking, lycopene has been known to triple in quantity when tomatoes are cooked.

According to Professor Ruth Litchfield from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University, lycopene is embedded deep in the fibrous parts of vegetables and the only way to release it is by cooking.

Fish loses none of its raw benefits - protein and selenium- when cooked. In fact, eating raw fish can expose you to bacteria and parasites. Cooking destroys bacteria and parasites in fish without diminishing the nutritional elements in it. Does this give sushi and sashimi lovers food for thought?

The expert opinion, however, is we should strike a balance between cooked and raw food. Knowing the consequences of long-term consumption of fast food, we should take steps to balance our diet with raw food such as fruits and nuts which are easily digestible and whose nutrients could easily be absorbed by our bodies.