Raw Diet Dilemma: To Cook or Not to Cook?

Does moving to a raw foods diet mean never eating hot food again? No, it doesn’t. Sometimes you want something hot. Hot food has always signified comfort for many of us.

And on a cold, rainy day, carrot sticks or wheatgrass juice probably won’t cut it for most of us.

Most raw food, like our bodies, is very perishable. When raw foods are exposed to temperatures above 118 degrees, they start to rapidly break down, just as our bodies would if we had a fever that high.

One of the constituents of foods that can break down is enzymes. Enzymes help us digest our food.

Enzymes are proteins though, and they have a very specific 3-dimensional structure in space. Once they are heated much above 118 degrees, this structure can change.

Once enzymes are exposed to heat, they are no longer able to provide the function for which they were designed.

Cooked foods contribute to chronic illness because their enzyme content is damaged and thus requires us to make our own enzymes to process the food.

The digestion of cooked food uses valuable metabolic enzymes in order to help digest your food. Digestion of cooked food demands much more energy than the digestion of raw food.

In general, raw food is so much more easily digested that it passes through the digestive tract in 1/2 to 1/3 of the time it takes for cooked food.

Eating enzyme-dead foods places a burden on your pancreas and other organs and overworks them, which eventually exhausts these organs.

Many people gradually impair their pancreas and progressively lose the ability to digest their food after a lifetime of ingesting processed foods.

But you certainly can steam and blanch foods if you want your food at least warm. Use a food thermometer and cook them no higher than 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Up to this temperature, you won’t be doing too much damage to the enzymes in food.

What is the concept of a raw organic food diet?

The concept is to eat the same food as our chimpanzee cousins.

Even though we don’t have the digestion system for this type of diet…

Homo sapiens evolved using fire to cook our food. The species we evolved from, used fire to cook their food. Our body and brain adapted to a cooked diet. It made it possible for our brain to grow and for our brain to consume 25-30% of the energy we get from our food.

Chimpanzees eat all their food raw. But they can survive on that because they have stronger chewing muscles and a longer intestine. Also, their brain only uses 12-15% of their energy.

I guess people who want to live like chimpanzees, do it because they want to evolve towards having a smaller brain and use more time eating low-calorie food.

Why should I include raw foods in my diet?

Most vitamins are sensitive to heat and water. Water-soluble vitamins, especially most of the B vitamins and vitamin C, leach into the cooking water.

Vitamins A, D, and E are fat-soluble and leach into cooking oilsVitamin C is the most likely to get lost in cooking, according to Scientific American.

Eating food raw would increase the number of vitamins you consume, and lessen the likelihood of deficiencies.

Consuming raw foods (fruits & vegetables) in their original form will increase eating time and usually decrease total calorie intake.

Cooked vegetables (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) are particularly easy and fast to eat making it quicker to move on to the more calorie-dense foods. Getting full quickly on raw vegetables means fewer calories.

What are some tasty raw food diet recipes?

Raw fruits and veggies that are in season and/or organic. – Nuts and legumes. Both will need to be soaked overnight for easier digestion. – Plenty of leafy greens.

You can juice these (i know, yuck! but greens are so good for you!!!) and incorporate these in salads.

You can make milk using raw nuts such as almonds and sesame seeds by soaking these overnight and blending them.

Some raw foodists will eat mono meals. Meaning for the entire day, one will eat all meals of bananas, greens..etc.

Sometimes, it’s easy to eat like this, like just picking up a piece of fruit and eating. No more wondering if your food has preservatives and additives. Most times it’s hard.

I guess it depends on what are your intentions for wanting to make raw foods your lifestyle. Also, many struggle with this if they live in an area or state where there’s not much great produce. Also, what about the cold weather? We all want hot food and warm drinks.

If you are very curious, I would suggest you look up a few authors on raw foods such as Alissa Cohen, Jeremy Saffron, Shazzie, and Roe Gallo just to name a few. Most of their websites will tell of the good and bad of eating raw foods. Enjoy!

Is eating a raw vegan diet sustainable and healthy?

Raw vegan is so much the direct opposite of what human evolution has been for the last 5 million years, that is very hard to survive on it.

Humans started evolving bipedal motion (walking on two legs) when our hominids ancestors started hunting the savanna. We would no walk on two legs without hunting.

Humans continued evolving because our hominid ancestors discovered fire and could get more nutrients out of plants and animals by cooking food. Without fire and cooking there would be no large brain.

So raw vegan is literally wanting to go back to walking with the help of your front legs and wanting to reduce your brain capacity with 75%.

Also move to Mongolia for a year and then to northern Canada for another year, and then calculate how sustainable raw vegan diet will be there, before you decide.

What types of food can be considered sustainable?

Generally, anything that can be grown without depleting soil nutrients and available water resources, or practices (like rotation), that restore soil health.

For example, peanuts are sustainable. They don’t deplete nitrogen because peanuts and other related plants (soy, beans) take nitrogen from the air and turn it into compounds that can be absorbed by other plants.

But a lot of it is practices, not crops. For example, raising beef on pasture is more sustainable than raising beef on feedlots. Another consideration is what can be done with waste. A few pigs are sustainable. Pig manure lagoons generally are not.

Can Humans survive on a raw food diet?

With no other knowledge than that of history and evolution, and having taught introductory level biochemictry of nutrition, I can say with no doubt that at one time in our ancient history early humans or protohumans were able to survive and reproduce and thrive on a raw food diet.

If they couldn’t have, we wouldn’t be here to ask the question. Cooked food was not an option until humans mastered using fire to cook. That took some time, so the earliest humans or protohumans had no choice but to eat raw food.

(I’ve read that some early humans MAY have dried some foods in the sun, as we still can do today for foods such as raisins, and sun dried tomatoes or sun dried peppers — all of which i bought recently and have some of in my pantry — but the evidence for that conclusion isn’t certain).

There are some folks today who follow a raw-foods-only diet, at least I’ve read there are, but there are many postings on sites like HealthLine, WebMD, MayoClinic, and several government sites that I get daily and weekly health info from, that report several common problems associated with such diets, most of which are associated with either nutritional deficiencies or lowered immune response that will result in increased susceptibility to disease.

The raw-foods-only diets are not recommended by most doctors and nutritionists.

Some folks would get quite sick on such a diet, because cooking not only makes many kinds of food, mostly from animals, taste better, but cooking can also prevent pathogens on the food from making you sick, because cooking kills them.

But if you are sensitive to FODMAPs, cooking reduces the amounts of some of those problem molecules in the food, particularly the fructo oligosaccharides.

That can mean for example, that eating raw apples might give that person pain and gas, but eating cooked apples doesn’t have that effect, and they can be eaten without those negative consequences.

Some foods such as red kidney beans and cashews, contain toxins that would make you sick if eaten raw, so those foods could not be included in a raw-foods-only diet.

(What folks buy as “Raw”cashews have actually been cooked, buy only enough to remove a toxin just under the shell on the surface of the nut.)

Cooking has many advantages. While it is true that cooking can reduce the amounts of some nutrients in foods, such as the water soluble vitamins that can be destroyed by high heat, it’s also true that cooking makes many foods safer, easier to eat, and less likely to quickly spoil.

But, some of what you eat, IS best eaten raw, IF your system can tolerate raw fruits and vegetables. Cooking fruits and veggies will reduce their B vitamins, and vitamin C, and boiling in water allows all of those to dissolve into the cooking water, which is often discarded.

And the form of the chemical compound in which the vitamin is found in the plant can vary.

For example vitamin E can have one tiny part of the molecule be either an alcohol, an aldehyde, an acid, or an ester, (while the remainder of the molecule is identical in each of those) and your body would recognize each as vitamin E.

But the form the vitamin E is in, while still in the fruit or veg, is the form best absorbed by the body, when in the presence of the other chemicals making up that food. If you lost all the naturally occurring vitamin in a fruit or veg, you can’t just take a supplement of vitamin E and have it as easily absorbed.

The form of the chemical in a supplement has to be chemically shelf stable, and that won’t be the most easily absorbed form of the vitamin. You need to get those directly from the fruit or veg, and whether or not it’s cooked should be at least partly decided by how the preparation method will affect the vitamin content.

Some health conditions reduce the person’s ability to eat raw fruit and vegetables without uncomfortable consequences such as pain and gassiness, and in some cases folks can’t eat ANY raw fruit or veggies.

In those cases, those folks almost always have difficulty getting enough vitamins and minerals into their bodies and absorbed. If that’s you, ask your doctor to refer you to a nutritionist skilled and experienced in helping people will a mal-absorption condition.

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