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The True Value of Raw Food

There are many benefits to consuming raw fruits and vegetables. They are very nutritious—full of essential vitamins and minerals, and usually low in calories, too. For people who want to lead a long life, a diet containing lots of raw fruit and vegetables is crucial for them. But, what are the advantages of eating a full diet of raw foods without any cooked foods at all? None!  As a matter of fact, a diet which lacks raw foods poses a disadvantage to the dieter.

Supporters of raw food believe that all cooked foods are bad for their health based upon findings about the negative effects of certain cooked foods. This is totally false.  If you decide to exclude steamed vegetables and vegetable soup from your daily meal plan, then you are only narrowing down the diversity of nutrients that you receive.

For instance, when we make soup, a very small amount of the nutrient content of raw materials is lost. In soup form, more nutrients become absorbable. If the vegetables were eaten raw, some of the nutrients would not have been accessible to humans. Whereas, heating vegetables as in cooking soup, increases the potential for absorption and digestibility of the ingredients.  Beneficial compounds enter the body more readily. In addition, the water-soluble vitamins are not totally lost in soups because we consume the liquid part of it as well.

When vegetables are steamed or made into soup, the cellulose is broken down and the structure of the plant cells is altered. Only a few digestive enzymes are required to digest the food and make the nutrients available for distribution to the body cells. However, if the cooking process is roasting and baking, such as what is commonly done with nuts and cereals, you must also be aware that the availability of absorbable protein is decreased.

While steaming food or making it into a soup, the temperature of the boiling water reaches 100 degrees C or 212 degrees F. This is a moisture-based form of cooking that stops food from forming compounds that are potentially toxic to the human body.  One of the most commonly known heat-created toxins is acrylamide. This substance doesn’t form when food is boiled or steamed, but forms in dry cooking methods.

According to latest studies, the body absorbs more anti-cancer compounds such as phytochemicals (lycopene and lutein) and carotenoids from vegetables that are cooked. They compared the amounts to raw vegetables and found that the absorption of antioxidants is increased due to the destruction of the cell matrix wherein valuable compounds are originally bound.

The raw food movement also promotes another fallacy. This is about the destruction of heat-sensitive enzymes in plants which serve as catalysts for chemical reactions which take place in the digestion of food. These fragile enzymes do not facilitate this process since plant food does not provide the needed enzymes for the process of digestion in animals.

Our body knows how to supply the necessary amounts of digestive enzymes. As a matter of fact, plant enzymes are broken down even further by the digestive juices produced in the human digestive tract. The plant enzymes which we observe do not participate in the digestive functions in the human gastro-intestinal tract at all. So there is no truth to the belief that eating raw fruits and vegetables demand lower enzyme production in the human body for digestive purposes.

To summarize, a healthy diet should involve eating raw foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, every day. Salad can be a main dish, because raw food helps in many ways, including digestion, peristalsis, and bowel movement. There are fruits such as nuts and avocado that undergo undesirable changes when cooked and therefore are best eaten raw.  Browning and cooking in high heat produce acrylamide and carcinogenic compounds that are harmful to health and must therefore be avoided. However, a completely raw food diet is more disadvantageous than beneficial. Stewing food and making soup are just some of the cooking techniques that retain most of the nutrients that we need from vegetables.

So while it is important to eat raw food every day, the better choice is to cook food and add a good mix of raw fruits and vegetables for optimum health. The best way to expand one’s range of available nutrients is to cook food properly. In this way the absorption of plant protein is facilitated and at the same time the essential vitamins and minerals that a person should take in everyday are supplied.

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