Proponents of the raw food diet have always stressed the importance of not cooking food in order to get the most benefit out of it. There are many different reasons that cooking negatively affects food. Whether it be from the degradation of nutrients from heat, oxidation, light and acidity, to the toxic chemicals formed when you cook a food. Structures are altered, enzymes are deactivated, and food takes on a new dynamic than in its natural raw state.
But besides the alterations of heat, there are other, perhaps overlooked, problems when it comes to cooking food that go beyond the fire.
Creating a New Food
The different nutrient composition of the food from our natural foods is also altered, meaning there will be a different ratio of fats, carbs and proteins, as well as other nutrients when you put together a meal. Because you’re rearranging the foods into a new dish, you are providing yourself with a new configuration of nutrients. Taking in more fat and protein and less carbohydrates is a problem in our modern society, which is quite probably contributing to disease.
Fruit has a ratio of around 90% carbohydrate, 5% protein and 5% fat give or take. If you add in vegetables, some nuts and seeds, as well as other fatty fruits, you can see the nutrient ratio change slightly in the amount of macronutrients with more fat and protein and slightly less carbohydrate. Assuming this caloric ratio is what we would have sustained ourselves on for much of our primitive past, then this should be what we strive for when eating any kind of diet – be it cooked or raw.
However, when you are cooking for flavor, not much thought is put into the nutrient composition of the food. The use of oil, salt and sugar, which are basically empty calories, is problematic in this regard as well. The average American is consuming about 33% of calories from fat, 15% from protein and around 52% from carbohydrate.
Choice of Food
When you cook a food, you can make the inedible edible. You break down structures that were hard to chew or digest, and you can basically make anything taste good with a few spices and flavor enhancers.
When you can eat almost anything, you can choose almost anything to eat. What is edible on a raw food diet is very obvious – mostly fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, nuts and seeds. There are some other things that can be made edible, but for the most part, you are going to be relying on these staples to make your diet complete.
Most people who eat cooked foods rely on meats, dairy, grains and other tubers and starches for their meals, along with some of the ‘able to eat raw’ staples. And that’s problematic because these foods are not necessarily easy on the body.
Meats which were previously hard to chew become more tender, and especially if you cut it into bite-sized pieces. Grains, which were dry and hard, are also softened and flavored to taste good to the palette, which is very different from their previous configuration.
You can destroy some of the bad bacteria that the body would otherwise not be able to deal with by means of stomach acidity, but your microbiome could change based on these new foods that you are consuming.
Furthermore, foods like meats and dairy products are overwhelmingly linked to disease like cancer.
Starches Instead of Fruit
Starches typically used in modern cuisine present another problem because our bodies may suffer from the chemical composition of these foods.
Lectins are “carbohydrate binding proteins present in most plants, especially seeds and tubers like cereals, potatoes, and beans,” and are said to be either toxic, inflammatory or a little bit of both. They are able to get past the gut wall, and thus, are possible causes of other problems in the body.
Wheat gliadin, for instance, is able to bind to human intestinal mucosa, and has been scrutinized for its implications in coeliac disease for decades. It can also bind to glomerular capillary walls, mesangial cells, and tubules of human kidney and binds IgA and induces IgA mesangial deposits in rodents.
Lectins are suspected to play a role in autoimmune diseases, insulin dependent diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, peptic ulcer and upper respiratory viral infection.
One of the reasons some people are able to tolerate lectins is because they may require certain microorganisms to facilitate their effect. Such organisms include influenza virus and streptococci.
So even a cooked food enthusiast can improve their diet by relying more on the foods that our body can eat in their natural state, such as fruit, leafy greens, vegetables and some nuts and seeds, and ditching the foods that could be causing major problems to the body like grains, tubers and animal products.
Of course, these foods taste great raw, so it becomes very simple to include them into the diet in the raw state, where their nutrients will be preserved and toxic chemical byproducts can be avoided.