Raw or Cooked? Which is Healthier?

raw or cooked - broccoli pie with basil

raw or cooked - broccoli pie with basil


In today’s world of multiple diets and dietary extremes, everyone wants clear and definitive answers to what are often complicated questions. Consequently, there are often polarizing views on a variety of topics where the truth often appears to reside in the middle ground.

One common topic is the debate between raw vs. cooked food.

Raw food advocates maintain that cooking foods (or at least heating them above certain temperatures) denatures them and goes against our own natural behavior as humans. Conversely, those who advocate for cooking food argue that the cooking process changes foods chemically in ways that help the digestion process.

So which is true?

Let’s first consider the raw food approach.

Studies conducted recently have suggested that a balanced diet should contain a majority of raw food. When cooked, many foods will see many of the nutrients that they possess be destroyed, or at least severely reduced in potency and quantity. Therefore, through cooking these foods, we are reducing if not outright removing any potential benefits that we’d receive from them. Conversely, by eating these foods in their raw state will allow us to reap the full benefits of the nutrients contained in these foods. This is particularly true with many fruits and vegetables.

Cooked food advocates, on the other hand, argue that some foods are only beneficial as a result of the cooking process. And they would be right.

Some fruits, like tomatoes, release certain antioxidants when heated. These antioxidants are highly beneficial in reducing the risk of cancer and the effects of aging. Likewise, some vegetables such as asparagus also make more nutrients available when they’re boiled or steamed (preferred) than is available when in their raw form. This fact lends further support to the view that cooking food is better for long term health.

So, again we ask, which is true?

As with many dietary either/or questions, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Some foods are better consumed raw. On the other hand, there are some foods that are better cooked. So where does that leave us?

Logic suggest, then, that we should probably be eating some foods in their raw state while cooking others. Yes, it really is that simple. There is no absolute answer, no definitive right or wrong; it comes down to doing a little research and using common sense. If cooking a particular food item will yield better nutritional value, then obviously you should cook it. Likewise, if eating a particular food item raw is more beneficial (i.e. cooking denatures rather than making nutrients more available), then eat it raw.

As any health expert will (or at least should) tell you, the key to eating healthy is about balance. And that includes a balance between cooking some foods and eating others raw.

Do you have a favorite food item to cook or eat raw? Let us know in the comments below.

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