Published: 06/16/2015 - Updated: 10/17/2018
A few days ago we started to present a few of the benefits of cooking food. This allows us not only to use incredibly necessary sanitary methods for cooking, but it also makes nutrients available that otherwise would be unreachable in certain foods. Cooking also makes food simply more edible, especially food coming from animal sources. Over the years we have learned by experience that not cooking eggs, meat or milk appropriately is not only risky for health, but it could also lead to lethal diseases. We also talked about how this isn’t entirely black and white; you need to include both ends of the spectrum in your diet. So today we are going to talk about the benefits of consuming some foods raw. Several of these foods, of course, are plant-based. Consuming foods raw, however, does not necessarily mean that it can be consumed directly, as cleanliness and disinfection is always necessary for healthy cooking.
The only foods that should be eaten raw or uncooked for health, are those that have been discovered, over the years, to be healthful in this way. It’s not surprising that almost all of these foods fall under the plant or fungus category, as animal meats or animal products do present a potential risk when consumed raw. Including more vegetables in your diet automatically provides more vitamins and fiber, but just because they are plant-based, doesn’t mean they have to be consumed raw. Potatoes are a good example of this.
Let’s start by talking about Mother Nature’s desserts, which are sweet fruits. With the exception of their seeds (which at times contain toxins, like those belonging to apples or papaya), it is best to avoid cooking some fruits, due to the known effect this has on the kidneys (the fruits expand). A lot of these fruits and be consumed with their peel and with the pulp inside, and they can also be used to make delicious smoothies or flavored water. Lots of people also use fruits to make delicious salads, all of which can be used in practical recipes that don’t require any cooking, and therefore take very little time to prepare. Or you could just take a bite of the fruit to enjoy these well-known benefits. We are not capable of synthesizing vitamin C like other carnivorous animals do, and outside of fruits, there is no other way of getting this important dietary component. They also provide fiber, which aids digestion, and other vitamins that are needed to greater or lesser extent. To maintain health, it is very important that we eat one to two cups of fruit a day. In this case, it is not beneficial at all to cook foods when considering their nutritional content. That why it’s best to consume fresh fruit, rather than consuming them in syrups or dehydrated, which also contains excess sugar that we don’t need.
Then there’s vegetables that, when eaten raw, are not only delicious, but also nutritious, like broccoli. Broccoli contains an enzyme known as myrosinase, which appears to have certain benefits for preventing diabetes and heart damage. It needs to be consumed in moderation, however, because it could cause liver damage. This plant-based nutrient can also be destroyed through cooking. Raw garlic and onions contain nutrients like glycine, which could help prevent arteriosclerosis, fats deposits in the body, and regulating blood pressure in the body. Peppers are another vegetable that can be beneficial when consumed raw. They contain large amounts of vitamin C. They are crunchy and sweet when fresh. Raw vegetables almost always have higher vitamin C content than cooked vegetables.
When referring to mushrooms, carrots, asparagus, peppers, spinach, and other vegetables, however, due to their high carotenoid content, they contain more antioxidants when cooked, either steamed or stewed. Antioxidants are better preserved when they undergo a moderate cooking process, even better than when eaten raw.
To wrap things up, some foods are both delicious and nutritious when consumed raw. It is not healthy, however, to completely discard the idea of cooking foods, and focusing only on eating raw foods. A good balance between both preparation methods is healthy, not only for nutritive, but cultural reasons as well. There is nothing definitive that says that eating a diet comprised entirely of raw foods is the best, not following a diet based entirely on raw foods is the best. The healthiest way is to learn to consume and cook your foods appropriately, and to promote a wide and varied diet. At the end of the day, one of the greatest benefits to being an omnivore is being able to eat a varied diet. With that I will say goodbye, and hope that you continue to be curious in exploring prominent foods, that you never get stuck on just one idea, and that each day your human genius discovers even more about foods through science.