These are some of the foods that have bigger benefits for you (at least for some nutrients) when you eat them raw. Of course, they are wonderful cooked, too.
Bell Peppers — Whether you like your peppers red, green, or orange, it’s better to eat them raw. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Food Science found that bell peppers lost up to 75% of their antioxidants when cooked.
Broccoli — According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, raw broccoli contains three times the amount of the cancer-fighting compound sulforaphane.
Onions — While cooked onions have plenty of health benefits, raw onions containantiplatelet agents, which protect against heart disease.
Garlic — Raw garlic contains special sulfur compounds which have an anticarcinogenic (anti-cancer) effect. A 2001 study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that cooking can destroy these sulfur compounds.
Why Too Many Raw Crucifers Can Harm Your Health
Can too much kale be a bad thing? Sometimes it can.
Eating too many raw crucifers can lead to hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough of the thyroid hormones.
How much is too much? According to 1993 study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 10 cups of raw kale a day on a regular basis is probably the limit.
Plus, the amount varies for different types of cruciferous veggies.
Dr. Michael Greger says, “You could probably get away with, theoretically, 50 cups of raw cauliflower a day. But just three cups of raw mustard greens a day.” Another study found that a woman eating 15 cups of raw bok choy daily for several weeks went into a hypothyroid coma.
But reasonable amounts of raw cruciferous vegetables should be fine. And the goitrogenic properties of kale and other cruciferous veggies dissipate when you cook them. So a better approach is to switch up your greens, eat some raw and some cooked, and to consume a wide variety of colorful vegetables.
How to Get the Most Benefits from Cooked Cruciferous Vegetables and Garlic
If you want to cook broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radish, rutabaga, turnip greens, and arugula, here are three science-backed steps you can take to maximize their health benefits:
Pre-chop them first and let them sit for 40 minutes before cooking
Add some mustard seed powder (or some daikon radish, horseradish, or wasabi) after cooking, or
Add a small amount of fresh, raw cruciferous veggies to your cooked ones
And here’s how to get the most benefit from cooked garlic:
- Cancer-fighting allicin is relatively heat-stable. If you want to cook garlic, crush or chop it, then wait 10 minutes before cooking. This will allow the allicin to form.
Can A Raw Food Diet Be Beneficial for Health?
A raw food diet typically contains 70% (or sometimes 100%) of food that hasn’t been cooked or processed. To be considered raw, food can’t reach above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) when heated. Instead, people eating a raw food diet consume a lot of fresh, dehydrated, and fermented foods.
Thousands of anecdotal reports exist of people using raw diets to cure conditions, such as acne, autoimmune disorders, candida, cancer, IBS, and numerous other ailments. However, few scientific studies exist to support these claims.
Here are a couple of studies that have shown positive results:
- A 2000 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology found that a low-salt, raw vegan diet helped alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
- A 2009 study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicineshowed that people who stayed for one to three weeks at a raw, vegan retreat center saw improved mental and emotional health.
Why Raw Food Diets May Not Be Beneficial Long-Term
While raw food diets have been found to give remarkable results in the short-term, they are difficult to follow. Raw diets are also typically time-intensive — and they don’t seem to support long-term health.
Chris Wark used a raw food diet (including his cancer-fighting salad and his anti-cancer smoothie), along with lifestyle changes, to beat cancer. But he says, “Raw food can be healing, but it’s not sustainable long-term.”
Dr. Michael Greger says the reason switching to a raw food diet can improve health is because it’s an extremely healthy diet.
He says, “One of the benefits that raw diets have over vegan diets is [they] cut out all the crap.” (Like vegan marshmallows and donuts.)
Researchers have also found that long-term adherence to a raw diet can lead to a high loss of body weight, which can cause health issues from being underweight, including amenorrhea in women — a condition in which menstruation ceases.
And a 2005 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine associated a 100% raw, plant-based diet with a lower bone mass — which is usually a sign of osteoporosis and increased fracture risk.
A Must-Have Resource If You Want to Try A Raw Diet
If you want to try a raw diet, you want to take steps to be sure you get the nutrients you need.
Brenda Davis, RD, and Vesanto Melina, MS, RD, wrote what could be the definitive book on how to eat a raw (or mostly raw) diet and meet your needs for vital nutrients. It’s called Becoming Raw: The Essential Guide to Raw Vegan Diets.
It’s important to note, however, that neither Brenda nor Vesanto practice or broadly recommend a purely raw diet on a long-term basis.
Raw + Cooked = The Winning Combo for Your Health