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Is raw food really healthier than cooked?

Posted Aug 11 2011 9:00am

Raw food diets are growing like mushrooms.  Raw cleanses are gaining popularity as the raw diet is now rated the second best diet for weight loss in U.S News’ assessment. However, are raw foods always healthier than cooked?  In fact, when addressing the question whether raw food is really healthier than cooked, nothing is all black or all white.  And while nutrition science is now quite advanced, we have yet to come with a clear answer on that matter.  Cooking transforms food and has a different effect on the content and availability of each nutrient. Let’s take a look at the well-documented effects of cooking on some of the nutrients.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is among the nutrients the most affected by cooking.  Vitamin C is a very unstable compound that is quickly degraded by heat and oxidation.  Make sure to eat raw fruits and vegetables every day to get your daily intake of vitamin C.

Winner: Raw food



Lycopene is an antioxidant found in red colored foods such as tomatoes and watermelon.  This antioxidant protects against sun damage and lowers cancer risks.  Lycopene is part of an antioxidant family named carotenoid. This antioxidant family is enhanced by cooking, so cooked tomatoes, especially when eaten with a small amount of fat, is the best way to get good amounts of lycopene.

Winner: Cooked food


Vitamin B

Vitamins from the group B are soluble in water, which means that they are easily diluted in cooking water for boiled foods.  To retain the most B vitamins in your food, it’s best to choose cooking methods that minimize the use of water, or that uses the cooking water to make broth or soups.  This can be important especially for whole grains, a type of food that is usually cooked.  Raw vitamins B food sources include oysters, tuna and caviar, but plant-based sources are more difficult to find, except maybe bananas.

Winner: Raw food or food eaten with its cooking water.

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