Is raw food healthier than its cooked counterpart? There is no yes or no answer. Things are a bit more complicated. Let’s start with raw fish and meat. Why do you cook them? It kills parasites and bacteria that can make you sick. However, with some raw meat, egg and fish dishes, like sushi and steak tartare, using only the best meat or fish and preparing it in a highly sanitized area can remove the risk. Some recipes for tartare may contain some vodka, which also can cut the amount bacteria. Raw fish can contain more nutrition, like omega-3 fatty acids.
Some vegetables are toxic if eaten raw in large amounts.
With some vegetables, like eggplant or green beans, eating them raw can be dangerous. Eggplant contains solanine that’s bitter and toxic if you eat too much, but cooking destroys it. Green beans contain lectins that are anti-nutrients and destroyed by cooking. Raw red kidney beans are toxic, so are Lima beans and the green part on raw potatoes.
Some vegetable taste better cooked and have more nutrition, while others are delicious raw.
Raw veggies are definitely healthy, but so are many cooked ones. Some taste better cooked, such as eggplant. Some cooked vegetables actually contain more of certain nutrients than their raw counterparts do. Tomatoes, for instance, increase in the amount of lycopene per spoonful as it cooks down, but the cooking also destroys the vitamin C. Most people love raw celery with dip, but don’t love eating a bowl of celery, while cooked asparagus is yummy, raw asparagus isn’t and may even be hazardous.
It also is a matter of absorption of nutrients.
You can consume all the vitamins you want in food, but absorbing and using them is another matter. In a large study of women that contained three groups, one group ate the average American diet, the second ate one on dietary recommendations including both raw and cooked vegetables and the third ate a raw food diet. While those that ate the raw food diet consumed more nutrients, such as vitamin C or beta-carotene, the group that ate the healthy diet of both cooked and raw vegetables absorbed more nutrients. Cooking the veggies made the nutrients more bioavailable.
- Eating raw fish may expose you to parasites, food poisoning and higher amounts of mercury, PCBs or other contaminants. Most studies find that raw meat or fish provide no nutritional benefit.
- If you love to snack on fresh veggies and dip, try a boiled and chilled asparagus with seasoned lemon vinaigrette. Boil for 2-3 minutes, chill on ice, drain and dry. Toss with vinaigrette and keep in the refrigerator for snacks.
- How you cook the food makes a huge difference. Fried food is not healthy and shouldn’t be used, especially deep fried. Steaming, grilling, broiling and boiling are good cooking options.
- You can eat crucifers like kale, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts both cooked and raw. If you choose raw, introduce them slowly into your diet or you may suffer from gas or upset stomach.
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