Optimum Nutrition: Cooked or Raw?
Which is better: cooked food or raw? Taking nothing for granted or gospel, I set out to find out for myself the answer to this important question.
First, I asked, what is meant by "raw food" and what is meant by "cooked food?" One cannot simply say that raw is uncooked, for there are raw food "cookbooks." Nor is cooking simply the application of heat through boiling, baking, or frying, as I soon discovered. Ripening itself is one form of natural cooking; others are described later. Second, I wondered, what did my ancestors eat? And was it raw or cooked? Third, I questioned, how do enzymes in foods affect digestion and health? Fourth, I attempted to sum it up, is there an advantage to cooking?
The answers weren't as simple as one might suspect, however. The answers to these questions combine in interesting ways, and open up other questions in their answering.
To begin with the second question: Our most primitive ancestors, those who lived several million years ago, most likely ate raw food. The majority of what they ate was animal protein: muscle meats, organ meats, eggs, and insects.
Present day examples of peoples who primarily eat raw animal protein include the Inuit of the far North and the Masai of Africa. Both groups are known for their health and freedom from disease, although in fairness there are many other lifestyle differences between these cultures and our own.
Research done by Dr. Pottenger in the mid-twentieth century revealed that raw meat and milk contained enzymes necessary for digestion. He showed that heat deactivated their enzymes (www.westonaprice.org). His conclusion was that raw meat, fish, milk and eggs provide more nutrients and are more easily digested.
This is not true of plant foods, however. Vegetables and fruits do contain enzymes -- if picked fully ripe -- but their enzymes have no function in their own digestion, although papaya, pineapple, and kiwi fruit contain enzymes that digest meat (An interesting aside