Without a doubt, my favorite part of a healthy and fit lifestyle is the EATING! But when it comes to eating nutritious, real food, one topic that often comes up is: which is better, raw or cooked food? The easiest way to help answer the question of raw food vs. cooked food is by measuring digestibility.
Legumes & Grains
Legumes and grains are indigestible in their raw state and definitely should be cooked or fermented for a long period. When cooking think slow and low… and yes, that means that instant oatmeal is not real food. When it comes to fermentation think about the long process of making miso paste or soup.
Nuts will cause irritation or indigestion if not prepared by roasting or soaking and dehydration.
Many vegetables are difficult to digest in their raw form because they contain naturally occurring toxins that interfere with mineral absorption, block thyroid function or irritate the digestive tract. Cruciferous & green leafy vegetables like broccoli or cabbage fall into this category. Cooking neutralizes these anti-nutrients and makes these vegetables much easier to consume (fermentation also neutralizes these substances, such as when cabbage is made into sauerkraut). Raw salads can be extremely beneficial – however, if your digestive system is compromised they should be avoided.
It is best to consume milk products in their raw state. Pasteurization destroys enzymes that promote ease of assimilation and digestion (the reason why people who are lactose intolerant have problems with dairy). Pasteurization also makes many nutrients less available, especially vitamin B12 and B6.
Meat & Fish
Many nutrients are available in raw meat & fish, but cooking them (and being careful not to burn!) breaks down proteins and makes amino acids easier to absorb. A well balanced diet will include meat and fish in both raw and cooked forms.