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Cooked Food or Raw Food in a Vegetarian Diet?

Becoming a vegetarian brings with it a lot of decisions. In addition to deciding what to eat is the dilemma of how to eat it. This brings up the controversy of cooked food versus raw food. There are benefits and drawbacks to both ways of eating.

Cooking food facilitates digestion by softening the cell walls of the plants and breaking down the cellulose fiber. This eliminates the need for our body to produce as many digestive enzymes. Boiling and steaming are the preferred cooking methods. Boiling and steaming foods maximize absorbability and minimize nutritional losses.  Preparing soups and stews also produces minimal losses.

Frying foods creates problems. These problems are the use of high-fat oils and free radicals. Free radicals promote the growth of cancer cells and accelerate aging. Baking at high temperatures, bar-b-queing, browning and frying create large nutrient loses as well as forming toxic compounds which are carcinogenic. Acrylamides are toxic componds which and are found in French fries and potato chips. Cooking is not so much the problem as what the food are cooked in and the temperature the foods are cooked at.

Certain vegetables when lightly cooked lose their nutrient inhibitors, meaning nutrients are more available. Some of these foods are broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, kale, chard and collard greens. Some foods supply more antioxidants when cooked.

Some of the vegetables that supply more antioxicands when cooked are carrots, spinach, asparagus, and peppers.

Eating vegetables cooked or raw provides different benefits. Broccoli and carrots are two examples. They both offer nutrients when raw that are destroyed in cooking and offer nutrients activated by cooking that are not available raw.

The preservation and destruction of digestive enzymes creates the most controversy when discussing cooked and raw foods. The human body provides us with approximately 22 digestive enzymes. These digestive enzymens are produced mainly in the liver and pancreas. Some studies show we produce all the enzymes we need. Others say we need them in our food. Even more confusing is the theory that plant enzymes are not the enzymes we need for digestion at all.

With all this said, raw foods are beneficial as well. Raw foods preserve certain nutrients lost through cooking, especially water soluble vitamins. Vitamin C, a water soluble vitamin is decreased by 10 percent when cooked for 2 minutes and up to 29 percent when cooked at 190.4 degrees for 30 minutes.

Two respected doctors have cured type 2 diabetes with a vegan diet. Interestingly enough, Dr. Neal Barnard cured his patients with a mostly cooked vegan diet and Dr. Gabriel Cousens cured his patients with a mostly raw vegan diet.  With the information available to us, choosing to eat a variety of plant-based foods, some cooked, some raw, will provide the nutrients and enzymes we need.

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