Humans have been cooking food since the discovery of the fire. Cooking (as the thermal processing of the food) has changed our diet; it has made it possible to try new foods, to enhance flavor and to avoid food contamination hazard. Cooking softens food that would be too hard to chew and digest by humans (meat and cellulose fiber). For millennia, we have been pleased with this perspective on cooking, but lately more and more people have become spellbound by the idea of a Paleolithic diet or by raw veganism. The aim of this article is not to recommend any type of diet or to suggest that raw or cooked food is always better than the other one, but to list some facts about foods being healthier when cooked or thermally processed.
- Bones release their minerals when cooked and used to prepare a broth.
- Some experts consider uncooked vegetables to be too bulky in order for us to extract some of their vitamins. The nutrients in plant foods are locked in cellulose cell membranes, which cannot be broken down by the human digestive system, and the only way to achieve this is cooking or fermenting.
- Fats turn into toxic substances only when cooked at too high temperatures or burned.
- Undercooked eggs may contain Salmonella, and duck eggs do contain this pathogen.
- As for vegetables, some maximize their nutritional content when cooked, while others are better as nature let them.
- Asparagus is able to prevent cancer when it is cooked.
- Mushrooms release potassium when thermally processed.
- When you cook the spinach, you will have an increased intake of magnesium, iron and calcium.
- Tomatoes are better cooked, too, because you will absorb more lycopene, a substance known to fight against cancer and heart disease.
- Carrots, cabbage and peppers are also considered to have more antioxidants such as carotenoids and ferulic acid when cooked. On the other hand, it is true that cooking destroys vitamin C.
What we need to keep in mind is that some vegetables are more potent when cooked, while others are healthier when eaten raw, but, after all, the important thing is to eat them, no matter how they are prepared, and to use the method that ensures the most pleasant taste, without falling into any of the two extremes.