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Raw vs. Cooked - What is Better For You?

September 4, 2018

With so much conflicting advice out there about what foods are healthy, it can be overwhelming! A common question is whether or not foods are healthier for you if they are raw or cooked.

 

Well let’s finally put an end to the debate....

 

Of course, in the grand scheme of a well-balanced, nutrient-dense, varied, whole foods diet, the cooked vs. raw debate isn't that critical for most people.

 

Where this can become a consideration is for vitamin and mineral deficiencies (or "insufficiencies"). These may be due to digestion or absorption issues, or avoidance of certain foods (due to allergies, intolerances, or choice). If you are also looking to lose weight, it is important that you are getting as much nutrition as possible to ensure optimum digestion and therefore a speedy metabolism!

 

And I'll tell you that the answer isn't as simple as "raw is always better" or "cooked is always better."  As with most nutrition science, it depends on several factors. Some vitamins are destroyed in cooking, while others become easier to absorb (a.k.a. more "bioavailable").

 

Here is the skinny on vitamins and minerals in raw foods versus cooked foods.

 

Foods to eat raw

 

As a general rule, water soluble nutrients, like vitamin C and the B vitamins, found mostly in fruits and vegetables, are best eaten raw.

 

The reason why is two-fold.

 

First, when these nutrients are heated, they tend to degrade;  this is from any heat, be it steaming, boiling, roasting, or frying. Vitamin C and the B vitamins are a bit more "delicate" and susceptible to heat than many other nutrients.

 

Of course, the obvious way to combat these nutrient losses is to eat foods high in vitamin C and B vitamins in their raw form (like in an awesome salad) or to cook them for as short a time as possible (like quickly steaming or blanching).

 

Fun fact: Raw spinach can contain three times the amount of vitamin C as cooked spinach!

 

The second reason why foods high in vitamin C and the B vitamins are best eaten raw is that they're "water soluble."  So, guess where the vitamins go when they're cooked in water?  Yes, they're dissolved right into the water;  this is particularly true for fruits and veggies that are boiled and poached but even for foods that steamed as well. Makes sense right when you think about the colour of your water after you have boiled green veggies!

 

Of course, if you’re a savvy health nut, you’ll probably keep that liquid to use in your next soup or sauce to preserve those nutrients that are left after cooking. Just don’t overheat it or you may lose what you were aiming to keep.

 

But, how much loss are we talking about?  Well, of course, it ranges but can go from as low as 15%, up to over 50%.

 

In short, the water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamins degrade with heat and some of what's left over after they're heated dissolves into the cooking water. So be sure to cook your fruits and veggies as little as possible, and keep that cooking water to use in your next recipe.

 

 

Soaking nuts and seeds

 

Regarding raw nuts and seeds, it may be beneficial to soak them. Soaking nuts and seeds (for several hours at room temperature) allows some of the minerals to become "unlocked" from their chemical structure, so they're more absorbable.

 

Foods to eat cooked

 

Cooking certain orange and red “beta-carotene rich” veggies (e.g. tomatoes, carrots, & sweet potatoes) can help make this pre-vitamin A compound more absorbable.

 

Fun fact: One study found that absorption of beta-carotene was 6.5 times greater in stir-fried carrots than in raw carrots!

 

Of course, eating your fat-soluble vitamins with a bit of fat will help you to absorb more of them, so that’s one factor to consider. Perhaps next time use an extra virgin coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil to stir fry those carrots and you have a double win!

 

One vegetable that’s best eaten both raw and cooked??

 

Spinach!

 

And I’m not just saying this to get everyone to eat it any way possible (although, I would love for this to happen...unless you’re allergic, of course).

 

Spinach contains so many beneficial compounds that it's great eaten both raw and cooked.

 

Eating raw spinach preserves the water-soluble vitamins C & the B vitamins.

 

Eating spinach cooked allows the pre-vitamin A, as well as some of the minerals like iron to be better absorbed. Not to mention how much spinach reduces in size when it’s cooked, so it’s easier to eat way more cooked spinach than raw spinach.

 

An added benefit.....the more dark greens you eat, the more alkaline your blood will become which means LESS INFLAMMATION! Reducing inflammation is essential for those of you with chronic joint or muscle pain and also if you are looking to lose weight.

 

Conclusion:

 

 

The old nutrition philosophy of making sure you get a lot of nutrient-dense whole foods into your diet holds true. Feel free to mix up how you eat them, whether you prefer raw or cooked just make sure you eat them.

 

If you have a specific health challenge or are concerned about chronic symptoms and would like to know where to focus to heal your body naturally, I would urge you to book your FREE initial consultation so we can assess your symptoms and determine the best approach FOR YOU to help you resolve them. CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION TODAY.

 

 

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