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Cooked Versus Raw Foods, The Real Story....

Are RAW foods healthier than cooked???? Every blogger it seems has an opinion about this. The later classification allows for both cooked and raw foods while the former only allows for raw foods or foods that have not been heated over a certain degree (115° F). Raw food advocates make claims about supposed health benefits associated with their way of eating, but do any of these claims hold any scientific merit? Here, I will present the evidence and also my PERSONAL experience...

Researchers primarily from the Institute of Nutritional Science, University of Giessen, Germany, under direction of Professor Ingrid Hoffman, have determined that a long-term raw food diet results in low levels of the antioxidant lycopene. Their study, published in The British Journal of Nutrition, consisted of 198 subjects (92 male and 106 female) on a strict raw food diet, and the subjects’ low lycopene levels are problematic. Lycopene, found in fruits such as tomatoes and watermelon, has been extensively studied to determine it as a key factor in reducing risk for cancer and cardiovascular ailments. Cooking fruits that contain lycopene, like tomatoes, significantly raises the bioavailability of the antioxidant. Professor of food science at Cornell University, Rui Hai Liu, concluded this in his 2002 study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. This is one strike against raw food diets.

Another strike against raw food diets is that steaming or boiling asparagus, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, peppers, and spinach, among other vegetables, supplies more antioxidants like carotenoids and ferulic acid to the body than they would raw, or so Professor Liu says. His statement is proven in the 2008 report in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry which concluded that boiling, as opposed to frying, better preserves antioxidants in broccoli, carrots, and zucchini. Antioxidants tested for included carotenoids, ascorbic acid, and polyphenols. Strike two.

Strike three comes from a PNAS report in regards to the evolution of the human brain and an exploration in to why humans do not have the largest body mass amongst primates but the largest brain size and neuron count. The human brain is metabolically costly and requires 20 percent of resting metabolic rate. Humans are the only primates that cook their food. Raw foods have a low caloric yield, which imposes “a tradeoff between body size and number of brain neurons, which explains the small brain size of great apes compared with their large body size.” Homo erectus overcame this limitation by cooking foods so that less time was spent feeding: cooked food provided a greater amount of brain neurons and drove humans to evolve with an increased brain size and functioning capability. Essentially, this might mean that humans would not have evolved were it not for cooked foods. Strike three.

Dr. Mercola believes that the optimal diet for humans is 85 percent raw...I DO NOT! I ate 80 to 90% raw foods for about 7 years. At that time, I was training in Chinese Medicine and acupuncture. My preceptors told me that I was making a BIG MISTAKE by eating so much raw food. They explained that the digestive system is considered a 98.6 degree soup and by eating so much raw food I was stressing out my body and depleting my digestive fire, essentially putting it out. I wish I had listened to their advice! A few years later, my digestion completely shut down and I could digest absolutely nothing for almost a year! Furthermore, by eating so much raw food I had created an environment of "internal dampness" this dampness was a terrific breeding ground for dysbiotic gut bacteria which I then had coming out of my ears! While, raw foods supersede cooked foods in that they contain biophoton light energy and enzymes that are often destroyed with cooking these do not make up for the problems they cause. Today, I eat almost entirely lightly cooked foods. My health has improved by leaps and bounds.

The important thing to realize is balance. Balancing 10% raw foods with cooked foods is the best strategy as far as diets are concerned in my opinion. While healthy people can certainly tolerate some foods, I do not recommend this or any other fad diets. Wednesday I will explore the topic have you been misdiagnosed with High Blood Pressure! Sign up so you don't miss a thing! AND...Visit our STORE for Great Values, Products and FREE SHIPPING On EVERY ORDER!

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Taryn DeCicco, ND, LAc, LDN
Clinical Nutritionist
Professional Vitamins and Supplements
Chinese Herbs
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Arlington Heights, IL

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Author's Bio: 

Taryn DeCicco ND, LAc, LDN of Apple A Day Clinic in Arlington Heights, IL has been specializing in acne, skin, and digestive disorders for over 16 years.