I know we all love salads. I ask my clients to eat salads always as they are an important part of a healthy meal. But are raw foods always good? Do they deliver loads of health benefits? Is cooking really harmful? Where should we stop?
Cooking is a very important process. It helps us digest food without expending huge amounts of energy. It softens food, such as cellulose fiber and raw meat, that our digestive systems aren’t equipped to handle. Though cooking does destroy some vitamins like vitamin C, raw foods are not always healthy.
Cooking makes certain nutrients more easily available for our bodies to digest. For example lycopene is a powerful antioxidant predominantly found in tomatoes. Studies have shown that cooking actually boosts the amount of lycopene in tomatoes. Lycopene has been linked to lower rates of heart disease and cancer.
Even cooking carrots boosts beta-carotene content. Beta-carotene belongs to a group of antioxidant substances called carotenoids, which gives fruits and vegetables their red, yellow, and orange colours. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is a very powerful vitamin.
Cooking also denatures some enzymes and breaks down the amino acids, making them easily digestible.
However there are certain vegetables which are best eaten raw as the heat during cooking destroys certain sensitive nutrients. For example, vitamin C in red bell peppers gets destroyed to a certain extent due to cooking. Folate found in beets is also lost during cooking.
Hence eating foods raw or cooked is food specific. We have to be careful and smart with our foods. We should choose our cooking methods wisely to retain maximum nutrients.
Watch this space for a list of foods which should be cooked and which should be consumed raw.