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Is Raw or Cooked Food More Nutritious?

Is Raw or Cooked Food More Nutritious?

Raw plant food supplies many disease-fighting nutrients which also promote longevity, but are raw food diets more nutritious?  According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, consuming a raw diet is not more nutritious.  He responds by saying, "Eating an exclusively raw-food diet is a disadvantage."  He believes that, "Excluding all steamed vegetables and vegetable soups from your diet narrows your nutrient diversity and has a tendency to reduce the percentage of calories from vegetables in favor of nuts and fruits which are lower in nutrients per calorie."

Dr. Fuhrman's article, "Raw vs Cooked?", which we can no longer find on the internet, addressed these concerns regarding raw food diets and are listed below:  

  • Since raw vegetables are very low in calories, raw food diets would not meet our caloric requirements unless we consumed large amounts of avocado, fruits, nuts and seeds.
  • Baking food at high temperatures, especially when it is fried or barbecued, does destroy some nutrients. However, not all forms of cooking are as damaging.  For example, minimum vegetable nutrient loss can be achieved using conservative cooking methods such as steaming or cooking them in a soup.  Raw food advocates may also be concerned about carcinogenic toxins called acrylamides.  Dr. Fuhrman affirms that, "Moisture-based cooking prevents food from browning and forming toxic compounds.  Acrylamide, is not formed with boiling or steaming.  It is formed only with dry cooking."
  • "Most essential nutrients in vegetables are made more absorbable after being cooked in a soup and water-soluble nutrients are not lost because we eat the liquid portion of the soup too.  Recent studies confirm that the body absorbs much more of the beneficial anti-cancer compounds (carotenoids and phytochemicals — especially lutein and lycopene) from cooked vegetables compared with raw. These nutrients would have been lost if those vegetables had been consumed raw. When we heat, soften and moisturize the vegetables and beans we dramatically increase the potential digestibility and absorption of many beneficial and nutritious compounds. We also increase the plant proteins in the diet."
  • "In many cases, cooking actually destroys some of the harmful anti-nutrients that bind minerals in the gut and interfere with the utilization of nutrients. Destruction of these anti-nutrients increases absorption. Steaming vegetables and making vegetable soups breaks down cellulose and alters the plants' cell structures so that fewer of your own enzymes are needed to digest the food, not more."
  • "It is not true that eating raw food demands less enzyme production by your body. Plant foods do not supply enzymes that aid in their digestion when consumed by animals.  A healthy body produces the precise amount of enzymes needed to digest the ingested food appropriately and the enzymes our body uses for other processes are unique to our human needs and are not present in plants."

Consuming a diet that includes raw plant food is an important element of a health-supporting diet, however, as Dr. Fuhrman points out, our diets do not need to consist entirely of raw food in order to maximize our health. Additionally, an all raw diet is not the healthiest diet to eat. He concludes by saying, "It is healthier to expand your nutrient density, your absorption of plant protein and your nutrient diversity with the inclusion of some conservatively cooked food in your diet."

For additional information, click on the following links:

(1)  Raw Food Nutrient Absorption.

(2)  Raw Food Diet Myths

(3)  What's the Best Cooking Method?

(4)  Which is Better, Raw or Cooked Broccoli?

Joel Fuhrman MD Links

Joel Fuhrman MD  |  LinkedIn  |  Wikipedia  |  VegSource  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Books  |  Videos

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