A common debate amongst people in the health industry is; what is the best way someone can eat to obtain optimal health.  One topic discussed, is whether or not it is better to eat raw foods, cooked foods, or the combination of raw and cooked.  Everyone is entitled to what they think works, but is important to know a few facts about what each way of preparing food brings to the table.  Eating raw food and cooked food each have their own benefits and drawbacks.

            Raw food has a number of benefits for our health.  Eating raw nuts, sprouts, fruits, veggies, grains and beans, provides the body with many nutrients.  They are high in fiber, vitamins and nutrients.  Eating like this also limits your saturated fat, since you are not cooking things in oil, cholesterol and sodium.  This diet can be very healthy for people and has been known to help improve many health disorders.  Many people have claimed to feel relief from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and many other illnesses.  People have been using a raw diet to help prevent cancer and heart disease for many years.   This all sounds great and it is, but there are elements to eating raw that can go unnoticed for a little while. 

            One of the big problems with eating is variation.  Things get old quickly and people get bored.  When eating raw it is harder to find different ways to prepare food so it does not taste the same all the time.  Another drawback is that some people, due to the fact that their food is high in fiber and people typically get sick of the food, will not get all the nutrients they need because they under eat.  So, if a raw diet, with its many benefits, is something that interests you, make sure you are eating often and trying to eat a large variety of raw fruits and vegetables.

            Cooked food has its benefits as well.  Cooking certain vegetables helps make the nutrients more easily absorbed by our bodies.  When kale is cooked it does deplete some of the antioxidants, but when a tomato is cooked it helps our bodies digest and absorb the nutrients easier.  So eating certain foods raw will have their benefit, but so does cooking.  Being able to vary the taste of your food is a huge pro to cooking.  Making a dish and being able to season it, add hot and cold ingredients and just making food a fun experience instead of a chore are all benefits of cooking food.  It helps people avoid getting that boredom and dislike of food.  Kale is a wonderful example of the benefit of cooking.  Yes, as stated before, cooking kale does deplete some of its nutrients, but there are not many people that enjoy the taste of kale raw.  So, if someone does not like kale raw, they can prepare it so they do like the taste.  Then they can still get most of the nutrients from the kale instead of just not eating it at all.

            There is a point where cooking food loses its benefits though.  Over cooking meals will greatly deplete the nutrients in vegetables.  So it is important to be conscious of how well done the vegetables are.  Also, cooking takes time.  Many people do not like to cook or they do not make cooking a priority.  Some people are turned off by the notion of cooking for 20-25 minutes a night, so cooking foods may not be as beneficial for people who do not want to prepare it.

            In my opinion, it is important to have balance.  Many snacks are great raw because they are quick, easy and healthy.  Having fresh vegetables and fruits are very important.  But, making food an enjoyable experience by cooking, trying new recipes and finding certain dishes that you love making can help someone to make a lifestyle change, instead of just a crash diet.

Chase Parker

Executive Director, Personal Trainer