Raw food pros, cons


CLEARWATER, Fla. – Heat and eat or pop in your mouth, straight from the source?  The debate over the health benefits of eating raw foods is heating up. 

For some foodies, nutrition, the way nature intended it, unprocessed, unpasteurized, uncooked and not genetically engineered, is the only way to go.

Raw food advocate, Dara Prentice, said, "It's the most beautiful food that also has superior taste. Not just superior nutrition, but superior taste."

Raw food proponents say eating a diet composed of 75 to 100 percent of raw foods alleviates the risk of cardiovascular disease. That's because some say most cooked foods are chemically altered during the process. Many also think heating food above 104 degrees can destroy enzymes in food.

Registered dietician, Nadine Pazder, isn't biting.

"In reality, because your stomach is so acidic and enzymes are essentially a protein compound, once those enzymes get to your stomach you're not going to get the benefits if there is any anyway, because it's going to get digested in these acids," Pazder said.

Pazder says cooking foods cuts the risk of illness from dangerous bacteria like salmonella and E. Coli.

"Raw foods can be potentially dangerous for people who are immunocompromised. It can be dangerous for the elderly; it can be dangerous for pregnant women or very young children," Pazder explained.

Raw food advocates say fewer calories are consumed eating this way, which could help curb America's obesity epidemic and is one of the biggest national health issues today. For both sides, it's food for thought.

Experts say those who are considering a raw foods diet should consider the risks from eating raw or undercooked meat, fish, milk or eggs.  Women who are pregnant should consult their doctors.

Additional Information:

Eating a diet made up of completely vegetarian or vegan foods has been linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and lower body mass index. While it has been proven that eating fruits and vegetables is great for your health, there has been a discussion on whether or not it is better to follow a raw diet, or to cook your food. (Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19562864)

UNCOOKED FOODS: Many nutritionists are saying that cooked foods have been chemically altered once heat is applied. When food reaches a temperature of 104 degrees many believe it can kill enzymes in your food. Enzymes are proteins in our food that help us digest our food. Eating a diet of mostly raw foods usually means fewer calories because of eating mainly fruits and vegetables. Calories are often cut down by almost half, which often means weight loss. With America having an obesity problem, a raw diet could help curb this epidemic. Raw foods are believed to allow you to get the original nutrients in the food which has added benefits to the body, and often boosts the immune system. However, the American Dietetic Association says not to implement raw food plans with children or infants because these types of restrictive diets are linked with growth problems. (Sources:  http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/raw-food-diet and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18028575)

COOKED FOODS: Cooking food allows people to have more of a variety of food groups to eat from; this includes major proteins like meat, fish, eggs, and more. Living on a raw diet means not eating meat because of the risk of bacteria like salmonella. Cooking foods also reduces the risk of other bacteria such as E Coli which has been found on a variety of different foods in the past, and can be life threatening. Cooking foods kills these bacteria and makes it much safer for people to eat, especially elderly, children, and pregnant woman, who bacteria are much more dangerous for. Dieticians also say that enzymes are killed no matter what because once the food is digested the acids kill them anyways, so some disagree with the raw food diet helping the body receive those enzymes better. (Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16177198)