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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Benefits of Raw Foods

Every once in a while, you will hear someone discuss the benefits of a raw food diet.  Although there is a lot of theory and science behind the idea, the basics are that a raw food diet will allow your body to access the nutrients and other beneficial phytochemicals that are available in the foods as they are grown, without any damage inflicted by heat.

In the summertime, I love this idea.  I can't imagine anything healthier than going out to the garden and harvesting my lunch, eating cucumbers and blueberries that are so fresh off the vine that, for all intents and purposes, you could say they are still alive.  Surely, eating fresh food in as close to its natural form as possible is a healthy move.

However, before I advocate an entirely raw food diet, I have to acknowledge that human beings have evolved to cook.  There are some theories that suggest that our teeth are formed as they are because, early on, humans discovered fire and no longer needed to be able to rip apart and chew raw meets or woody plant fibers.  Cooking has been with us for millennia, so there's little reason to think that it is generally speaking harmful.

Additionally, we know that cooking frees up certain nutrients that otherwise remain locked away in the food.  Tomatoes are fantastic both raw and cooked, but, while your body will access more vitamin C from a raw tomato, it will more easily access the lycopene in the fruit from a cooked preparation. And, of course, cooking meat makes it easier to digest while killing off potentially harmful pathogens.  You just need to beware of overcooking it to the point that you create too many carcinogens from the burning.  (And I'm guilty of loving a nice darkly roasted hot dog, so I'm not innocent on that.)

So, do I advocate a raw food diet?  Occasionally.  This is certainly the time of year to enjoy foods in all their raw, freshly harvested glory.  I think its worth exploring how to eat many foods both raw and cooked to best access all the healthy nutrients, fiber, and other beneficial chemicals they contain.  Plus, nothing beats a variety of preparation styles to keep your taste buds happy!
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