Getting through each day and eating a healthy diet is hard enough without people complicating it more. Despite this, some people choose to do just that with a mind to try to support one way of eating food over another as if there is some essential purity in their choice. This leads to a lot of confusion over how to make the most of a healthy diet. A lot of people tend to advocate raw food as inherently superior because it preserves more of the nutrients in the food that can be taken away by cooking the food. By contrast, there are a lot of people that advocate for creating cooked foods instead of simply consuming raw ones because cooked foods are easier on the body and often provide a far more complex array of nutrients due to cooked meals including so many foods. These are each reasonable positions to take if you only have the beginnings of information on the topic, but the idea there are only two choices obscures a much more complex truth.
This is the golden child as far as options go for many people interested in living a healthy life. It isn’t uncommon to hear people championing raw food blaming processed and cooked food for all the ills of the world. This makes very little sense most of the time and makes even less sense when it comes to vegetables. The story they tend to stick with is the simple fact that the act of cooking vegetables alters them chemically. These alterations end up depriving people of some of the nutrients available in the raw food and thereby actually make the vegetables less healthy than they would have otherwise been. There is some merit to this idea in the fact that, yes, cooking does chemically alter some foods. This tends to be particularly true for things that end up being cooked slower than the rest. You lose more nutrients as the temperature of the food and time it is subjected to it rises. That’s why so many rawer food can make good, healthy snacks. They’re a full bursts of nutrients that taste great. Cooking doesn’t make them all automatically worse for you though.
We need to stress here that there are plenty of raw vegetables that will just make you sick to eat them. As omnivores, humans are meant to process both meat and vegetables. That does mean we tend to suffer from the downside of not having a specialized diet: we can’t eat everything in either category. Some vegetable must be cooked to make them edible to us and kind to our digestive system. The chemical changes cooking causes actually make them better for us. To make matters worse for “raw food only” advocates, there are actually some vegetables that aren’t going to release all of their nutrients without cooking. The heat breaks downs some larger compounds we can’t use as effectively into the components we can easily use and thereby actually improves how healthy they are for us. Cooked vegetables are often used in combination with one another in certain dishes as well. This in turn gives access to a broader variety than you’ll get with raw food in many cases.
The Happy Medium
There’s no escaping the fact that many minor issues, such as raw vs. cooked vegetables, tend to have truths that tend to be more towards the middle of the given choices. A healthy diet has both raw and cooked vegetables in it. This provides the greatest access to nutrients without the belief of denying oneself proper care simply by the act of deciding to cook or not cook. Neither extreme will serve you well no matter what a particular diet tells you. Raw vegetables do tend to function best as snacks though. This is because they’re often tougher and haven’t had their fiber broken down by cooking. It allows them to properly serve as a way to stay your hunger in a health fashion. Cooked vegetables are a good complement or centerpiece of almost every meal due to the inherent healthiness of vegetables. Cooking them helps to blend flavors more to create rich, complex tastes that make for an attractive meal. Ultimately, only you can decide which way to balance your overall diet, but which way you balance it won’t deny or give you more nutrients as long as you take both options.
Humans naturally tend to put stock in information they’ve heard from a reputable source. That’s how a lot of these disagreements get started. Sometimes one needs to take a step back and decide whether a debate over whether you should cook or eat your vegetables raw may not be the best use of anyone’s time. A good mix of both will help keep you happy, healthy, and anticipating the flavors of your next meal.