Is Raw Food Better Than Cooked Food?

Is Raw Food Better Than Cooked Food?

Raw Food vs. Cooked Food – Which Is Healthier?

Do you already eat a variety of healthy foods, and want to know how to get the most vitamins and minerals out of them?  You’re probably not surprised that there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to maximizing the vitamins and minerals your body absorbs from foods.

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”). 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.

Let me go over which types of foods are best eaten raw, and which ones are best eaten cooked to maximize their nutritional benefit and put an end to the debate of raw vs. cooked.

 Foods to Eat Raw

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

There are two main reasons for this:

First, when foods are heated (be it steaming, boiling, roasting, or frying) the water-soluble nutrients tend to be destroyed. 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 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 are steamed as well.

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% nutrient content loss.

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.

Tips for raw nuts and seeds: it may be beneficial to soak them for several hours at room temperature.  This 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 fat-soluble 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.

In another study, blood lycopene levels increased 80% more when people consumed tomatoes sautéed in olive oil rather than without.

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.

However, eating cooked spinach 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.

So, 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.

Recipe (cooked spinach): Sautéed Spinach

Serves 4

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 bag baby spinach leaves
1 dash salt
1 dash black pepper
Fresh lemon

  1. In a large cast iron pan heat olive oil.
  2. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
  3. Add spinach, salt, pepper and toss with garlic and oil.
  4. Cover pan and cook on low for about 2 minutes.
  5. Sauté cook spinach for another minute, stirring frequently, until all the spinach is wilted.
  6. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on top.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Enjoying the cooked spinach with the vitamin C in the “raw” lemon juice helps your body absorb more of the iron.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/cooking-nutrient-content/
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/10-ways-to-get-the-most-nutrients/

In Health & Happiness
Dr. Tara Clapp, ND
Dr. Tara Clapp, ND

Dr. Tara Clapp, ND

Naturopathic Doctor Focusing on Anti-aging and Hormone Optimization

Dr. Tara Clapp, ND is a Board-certified Naturopathic Doctor and leading authority on Anti-Aging & Bio-Identical Hormones. Dr. Clapp, ND has taken numerous courses to advance her knowledge and has received certifications in Intravenous Nutrient Therapy, Mesotherapy & Injection Therapy for Anti-Aging  & Pain Management, as well as First Line Therapy Weight Management.

Dr. Tara Clapp, ND uses specialized, leading-edge laboratory testing for better diagnostics & health.  Dr. Tara Clapp, ND has special interests in anti-aging, bio-identical hormone therapy, food and nutrition,  metabolic and hormone imbalances and digestive disorders.

Being a naturopathic doctor has proven to be an especially rewarding experience to Dr. Tara Clapp, ND as it allows her to take part in people’s transformation and realization of their health potential. Consequently, Dr. Tara Clapp, ND continually updates her skills through new courses and conferences, and uses this information to better her clients.

Dr. Tara Clapp, ND is  a dedicated and caring physician, taking personal interest in her clients’ health and life.

Dr. Tara Clapp, ND has a passion for self-development programs that push her beyond regular physical and mental performance.  Dr. Tara Clapp, ND enjoys practicing yoga and meditation, has a love of photography, and relaxes by scrapbooking and enjoying long walks with her dog.

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Dr. Tara Clapp, ND - Anti-aging and Hormone Optimization

Hi! I’m Dr. Tara Clapp, ND

I focus on anti-aging and hormone optimization.

As a naturopathic doctor, I help women achieve radiant skin, maintain an active lifestyle and have lots of energy to do what they want. But what I’m really passionate about is teaching women how to harness the power of nature to change their biology, hormones, and genetic expression so they can live happier and healthier lives and achieve their vision of their best self!

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