Raw Food – Why Turning Off The Oven Could Make Over Your Health

March 2018, Xtend-Life Expert

Summary

We’re all sipping on smoothies and green juices, raw cafes are popping up in every suburb and Instagram is bursting with decadent-looking raw cheesecakes and bliss balls. There’s no doubt about it, raw food is huge.

Proponents expound the health benefits, from clearer skin and better energy levels to improved fertility. But is raw food really worth all the hype?

What’s the big deal about raw food?

A raw food diet means emphasising unprocessed and uncooked foods, or eating foods as close to their natural state as possible. It’s about going back to the way our ancestors ate.

It offers serious benefits because, although food is certainly more accessible than it was back in the Stone Age, it’s actually a lot less nutritious. Mass food production and the advent of supermarkets, fast food and cool stores has led to a significant loss of nutrients. Our reliance on heavily processed food has also placed a heavy toll on our digestive system, creating issues from constipation and food allergies to leaky gut and dysbiosis.

Upping your intake of raw foods can help ease the burden on your digestive system, while also offering a higher level of nutrition. And of course, eating foods in their natural state means less cooking, which is something everyone will appreciate. So how do raw foods help your health?

Give your digestive system a break

Raw foods require less energy to digest as they contain enzymes that help break them down. When you heat food to temperatures higher than 47 degrees Celsius or 112 degrees Fahrenheit, these enzymes are destroyed, meaning your body needs to produce its own enzymes (called endogenous enzymes) to help digest it. The greater our intake of enzymes from food, the easier it is for our body to fully digest and utilise the nutrients, without overly taxing our bodies. 

Foods that are naturally high in enzymes include kiwifruit, pineapple and fermented vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut.

Higher nutritional value

When certain foods are cooked they lose many of their essential phytonutrients and antioxidants. For example, cooking kale and capsicum means they lose a large amount of their Vitamin C, while boiling broccoli and cauliflower leads to a significant loss in antioxidants.[1] To get maximum benefit from eating these vegetables, it’s best to enjoy them raw or very lightly steamed.

Blueberries too, offer greater health benefits when eaten raw. Processing blueberries, such as pureeing in a smoothie, adding to pancakes or baking, leads to a loss of phytonutrients according to research from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.[2] So skip the blueberry muffins and snack on them raw.

Less digestive problems, less inflammation and reduced acidity

One of the great benefits of raw foods is the ease with which they make their way our digestive system. When foods are not digested properly or are slowly processed, they can ferment in the gut, causing leaky gut syndrome and inflammation reactions[3]. Because raw foods are easy to digest, they are much less likely to ferment in the gut and trigger these inflammatory symptoms.

Raw foods also play an important role in maintaining a healthy blood pH level. The natural pH of the bloodstream is slightly alkaline at pH 7.4, but the modern diet, high in sugar, meat, carbohydrates and processed foods tends to push our body towards an acidic state. Over time this low-level acidosis can create an environment that is more conducive to disease. Fruit and vegetables are naturally very alkaline, so by consuming a diet higher in raw plant foods, we are naturally balancing our bodies’ pH.


But don’t throw away the frying pan yet, because some foods are actually healthier cooked:

Cooking increases the antioxidant capacity of some vegetables

While some vegetables can lose nutritional value when cooked, others actually become more nutritious. This is because heating can change the molecular structure of vegetables and make the nutrients more bioavailable.

Tomatoes are one of the best-known examples. Cooking tomatoes for half an hour can boost the levels of lycopene (an important antioxidant) by up to 35 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry in May 2002.[4] Lycopene is also fat-soluble, meaning tomatoes are best eaten with a little fat for maximum absorption – think a tomato-based pizza or pasta sauce, bruschetta with olive oil, or in a lasagne.

Carrots also get healthier with cooking. Steaming or boiling unlocks more beta-carotene than eating carrots raw. Make sure you steam your carrots for the Sunday roast though, because roasting, frying or microwaving can cause a loss of nutrients.

Although broccoli and cauliflower lose some antioxidants through cooking, they actually gain more indole, a phytonutrient which is thought to be protective against cancer. Steamed broccoli may also have better potential to reduce cholesterol than raw broccoli. [5]

Eggplant fan? Enjoy it grilled. Grilled eggplant is much higher in antioxidants than boiled or raw.[6]

Cooking make some foods easier to digest

Imagine trying to eat a raw potato or some uncooked lentils. Pretty unappealing right? Some foods are just plain undigestible when they’re not cooked, such as grains, rice, legumes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkin. Heating grains and legumes not only makes them taste better, it also reduces levels of phytates, a compound which can impair the absorption of important minerals. To make grains and legumes easier to digest, make sure to soak and rinse them before cooking.

Cooking kills off harmful bacteria and microorganisms

While we’re all for raw, certain foods can be down-right dangerous if not properly cooked. Some animal proteins can contain bacteria and parasites that can lead to serious health conditions if eaten raw, for example chicken may contain campylobacter, pork may contain trichinella (a round worm) and pork tapeworm[7] and raw eggs may contain salmonella. Even raw fish can contain bacteria and worms.

The easiest way to ensure that these pathogens have been destroyed is to make sure food is properly cooked. Cook chicken until the flesh is white all the way through and all juices run clear. If you choose to eat pork, ensure it is cooked to at least medium. Never eat raw eggs. Only eat raw fish if you are completely sure of its origin, otherwise opt for cooked.

The bottom line

Raw foods offer a range of health benefits, from a healthier digestive system to a higher intake of phytonutrients. But like everything, it’s all a matter of balance. While certain foods are best consumed in their raw state, others are actually better for us after a cooking.

So, there’s no need to go totally raw, just make sure you consume at least some raw vegetables and fruits every day. For optimum benefit, enjoy a variety of nutritious raw and cooked foods.

Not a fan of raw food? Don’t panic! Here’s the easy way to go raw:

  • Spread avocado on your toast
  • Serve salad alongside all main meals
  • Include salad vegetables in your sandwich or wrap
  • Eat two pieces of fruit per day
  • Serve meat with a salsa of kiwifruit and pineapple (rich in enzymes to help break down protein)
  • Incorporate sauerkraut and or kimchi into your diet. Both these condiments are rich in both enzymes and prebiotics to aid digestion and boost the level of good bacteria in your gut
  • Snack on raw nuts and seeds
  • Sip on raw juices and smoothies
  • Swap margarine and hydrogenated oils for cold-pressed organic extra virgin olive and coconut oil
  • Swap refined and processed breads for Ezekiel bread (a sprouted grain bread). Ezekiel bread is available from most health food stores.
  • Get into sprouts, they are packed with goodness! Containing almost every essential vitamin and mineral, as well as enzymes to enhance digestion. Add some to your lunchtime sandwich or salad for major health benefits.

Kiwi-Klenz

Looking for a convenient way to get more raw food into your diet? Start your day with Kiwi-Klenz. Made from 100% natural New Zealand kiwifruit, Kiwi-Klenz is packed with enzymes, soluble fibre and prebiotics to help alkalize the body and promote healthy gut function.

References:

[1] Wei, M. Raw or cooked? How best to prepare 11 fruits and vegetables. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/marlynn-wei-md-jd/raw-or-cooked-how-best-to_b_8238636.html
[2] Wolfe, KL et al. Cellular antioxidant activity of common fruits. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Sep 24; 56 (18):8418-26.
[3] Dr Axe. https://draxe.com/raw-food-diet/
[4] Dewanto, V et al. Thermal Processing Enhances the Nutritional Value of Tomatoes by Increasing Total Antioxidant Activity. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2002, 50 (10), pp 3010–3014, April 2002. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf0115589
[5] Wei, M. Raw or cooked? How best to prepare 11 fruits and vegetables. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/marlynn-wei-md-jd/raw-or-cooked-how-best-to_b_8238636.html
[6] Wei, M. Raw or cooked? How best to prepare 11 fruits and vegetables. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/marlynn-wei-md-jd/raw-or-cooked-how-best-to_b_8238636.html
[7] Dr Axe. Why you should avoid pork. https://draxe.com/why-you-should-avoid-pork/

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