I’m a big believer and fan of raw foods. There are so many fruits and vegetables, superfoods and whole foods from the earth that are extremely beneficial for our health and well-being that are perfectly untouched and great to eat right off the tree. I eat a lot of foods raw in my diet, many salads, juices, smoothies and just plain ole snacking on raw food. It’s interesting though, I’ve noticed that some people get really caught up in raw foods and neglect the few exceptions to the rule.
Today we’re talking about the exceptions to the raw food rule. There are a few foods that are actually more nutritiously beneficial when cooked. Before you pull out the latest raw food book or quote your favorite raw food guru take a look at these foods and most importantly why they are actually more nutritiously beneficial when cooked. The elements (water, fire, earth, etc.) interact with whole foods and sometimes certain elements unlock key chemical changes that make it more beneficial to us. I personally feel that these foods are beneficial in both raw and cooked form but if you are a 100% raw foodie then making these slight changes might be worth a shot to just see if it changes anything for you, how you feel, how you digest the food.
Tomatoes are delicious and there is one key change that takes place when this delicious fruit is cooked. The main reason you want to eat cooked tomatoes (instead of raw all the time, or just mix it up) is because more lycopene is released when cooked. The tomato still contains the same amount of Lycopene but more of this antioxidant is available to the body to be used. One study found that 35% more lycopene was available when the tomatoes were cooked. Lycopene is beneficial for heart health, preventing heart disease and preventing prostate cancer.
- Cruciferous Vegetables:
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts and other cruciferous foods can be more beneficial when cooked also. These foods contain chemical called goitrin (along with peanuts also) that blocks the production of thyroid hormones which can pose a problem for people who already have hypothyroidism (an under-active thyroid gland) which can lead to constipation, cold hands and feet, dry hair etc. If you have a thyroid that needs support and is not working up to par then these foods should be avoided or cooked. Cooking cruciferous vegetables can reduce chemicals that harm thyroid hormone production by up to 66%.
- Spinach (and some other leafy greens):
Spinach, chard and a few other leafy greens contain a compound called oxalic acid. This acid blocks your body’s natural ability to absorb iron and calcium. By cooking (or slightly steaming) these greens you actually reduce oxalic acid allowing your body to better absorb both calcium and iron. Most dieticians and health experts often recommend consuming it in both raw and cooked forms. Raw spinach is higher in folate, vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin and potassium. Cooked spinach provides greater amounts of vitamins A and E, protein, fiber, zinc, thiamin, calcium and iron. Heating spinach also helps give you more carotenoids for absorption, including beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A. By lightly sautéing spinach in extra virgin olive oil you increase the bioavailability of its lutein, a carotenoid that can’t be absorbed unless accompanied by fat. Spinach (and several other leafy greens) should be consumed in both raw and cooked forms.
Carrots contain beta-carotene and vitamin a which when consumed in their raw form they are slightly difficult for your body to breakdown. When carrots are cooked it’s easier for the body to absorb these beneficial nutrients. According to the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, boiling or steaming carrots made the antioxidants, most notably carotenoids, more available to the body.
Mushrooms have very tough cellular walls and are difficult for the body to digest when uncooked. This is why when you go to a fine dining restaurant you’ll always find the mushrooms in these dishes cooked. Little you know is that mushrooms can contain certain chemicals that can be destroyed when cooked. Mushrooms are most beneficial when cooked with food or cooked in water and made into a mushroom tea.
There are plenty of foods that are beneficial raw but these are some of the main foods that you’ll want to both cook and eat raw in your diet to make sure you benefit in other ways also. Raw food is great but sometimes cooking boosts the value or removes chemicals or anti-nutrients that may cause more issues down the road.
To a healthy, wild and free life!