What I like(d) about the Raw Food movement was that everything came freshly straight from the tree or the soil. At least 20 years ago! There is no better fridge then the tree, the best way to keep the nutrition. Today there are machines to make all kinds of fancy ‘raw’ food, even special chocolate and bread machines! I think it loses the whole point of being raw; nutritious, minimalistic and natural. Now, if it is only about nutritional value, it’s not true that raw is always better than cooked. It depends on which nutrients and food we talk about. Statistics can only tell as some of the whole truth. Try and ask your belly!
All processing is a form of elaboration or ‘cooking’. As soon as you cut through the protective skin of a plant the oxidation of it starts, so the faster we eat it from picked the better. Drying a food is hardly raw anymore, but a great ancient tradition to preserve food, and it makes the tastes come out. There is a huge difference in the behavior of the nutrients and the taste in a whole garlic clove, chopped or pressed. The same with apples, that become much more sweet when grated (the first 30 minutes), than eaten as whole, as it uses up its own fructose to stay alive as long as it can.
Instead of Raw it could be called Enzyme food, as these are destroyed if you heat them above 38 degrees Celsius, which is what makes food raw and not cooked, proclaimed by the Raw-Food movement. But not all the enzymes are desired. The only purpose to save the good enzymes is for them to be used in the digestive process so that we can get more micronutrients out of the food. I see that there are many Raw Foodies that forgot that chemistry lesson. Remember from school that when you heat up a material the motion in between the atoms gets larger and it expands? It is the same with food, so if you have a compact piece of food like broccoli, the nutrients will sometimes be more bioavailable and easy to digest then if you eat them raw.
In that way we can digest it better, which means we get more nutrients out. It’s the nutrients in the blood that shows us the nutritional value, not the plant its self before eating. All nutrients should be measured; antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, enzymes… to decide the nutritional value. I think cooking (the fire) was the biggest success invention of the human race (unfortunately not for the Planet!). Nutrition wise I would say it is much better to eat organic and freshly picked food than raw. On the other hand 42% of climate changing soot in South Asia comes from home cooking fires, a highly toxic gas, and surely our summer barbecues in the West isn’t much better. Long cooking in winter uses far too much energy and even destroys the nutrients! Ecologically seen Raw wins!
This study on the concentration of nutrients in the blood, shows that some vegetables are giving us more antioxidants when cooked, specially when cooked in its own water, like low heat cooking or stir fried, or quickly steamed. It also dissolves some of the fiber and bitter enzymes that protects the plant from being eaten by insects and mammals like us and can be a bit tough for many bellies. The super healthy cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, etc) is a must for all that want to avoid cancer. They can be hard for some (most) to digest, and are therefore much better eaten steamed than raw. Another way to ‘cook’ this food is by using acids and salts to break the fiber. Here is my favorite recipe for these veggies right now, raw but not as hard to digest as it is well chopped and the chemical reaction with the oil, salt and citruses makes it easier to digest; finely chop the cruciferous, mix with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and let it rest for 15 minutes. Add herbs, pumpkinseeds, walnuts, or any other food you like. Tell us your favorite mix!