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Raw Foods and Healthy Living

Cooking tends to destroy a lot of the nutritive value of the food we eat. For example, 
  • Vitamin C
    • Cooking can destroy the vitamin C in veggies. 
      •  Dr. Liu[1] at Cornell University has found that vitamin C levels declined by 10 percent in tomatoes cooked for two minutes—and 29 percent in tomatoes that were cooked for half an hour at 190.4 degrees F (88 degrees C). The reason is that Vitamin C, which is highly unstable, is easily degraded through oxidation, exposure to heat (it can increase the rate at which vitamin C reacts with oxygen in the air) and through cooking in water (it dissolves in water).
  • Enzymes
    • Enzymes are  relatively large and their protein structures are fragile. Heating your food above 116 degrees F renders most enzymes inactive.[18]


However, another aspect, and one which less people are aware of, is the toxins (including carcinogens) that exist when food is heated past a certain temperature over time. As found in the HEATOX studies[2], such toxic substances include:

"I personally try to eat about 85 percent of my food raw", said Dr Mercola[3]. Maybe it is also wise for us to strive to get as much raw food in our diet as possible .  One way to achieve that goal is to drink fruit-and-veggie smoothies[8].

Food Contamination

Each year, 48 million people in the U.S. get sick from contaminated food[6]. Common culprits include bacteria, parasites and viruses[11,16].  However, harmful bacteria are the most common cause of foodborne illness.


In summer 2011, a deadliest E. coli outbreak has killed 31 people, sickened nearly 3,100 and prompted much of Europe to shun vegetables[5]. After a month of searching and testing, Health officials have finally tracked the bacteria's origin—the bean sprouts grown at an organic farm in Germany.

While sprouts are full of protein and vitamins, their growing conditions and the fact that they are mostly eaten raw make them ideal transmitters of disease. They require 100-degree heat and humidity — precisely the same conditions E. coli needs to thrive. Sprouts have abundant surface area for bacteria to cling to.

Clean Your Produce

Fruits and vegetables can be contaminated by pathogens, pesticides, and other toxins.  They may become contaminated when they are growing or when they are processed. But it can also happen in your kitchen if you leave food out for more than 2 hours at room temperature. Handling food safely can help prevent foodborne illnesses.  So, if you choose to add raw foods to your diet, you need to clean them thoroughly. Some advice(s) provided in [8,9,17] include:

  • For firm-skinned food, use a gentle scrub brush; if leafy or soft (lettuce, spinach, broccoli, strawberries), soak for minutes and separate leaves or parts.
  • Make up a produce wash of one part of white vinegar to four parts water and keep it in a spray bottle by the sink to deep-six any microbes.
  • Peel fruits and vegetables when you can and discard the outer leaves of leafy veggies.
  • You need two cutting boards: one for meat, one for everything else

Will Washing and Peeling Help?

As reported by EWG, washing can help reduce the level of exposures to pathogens, pesticides or other toxins.  But, it does not eliminate them.  Peeling also reduces exposures, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the peel. The best option is to eat a varied diet, wash all produce, and choose organic when possible to reduce exposure to potentially harmful materials[10].


Although organic produce is a better choice, it still has its own problems:

  • Pathogens
    • As discussed above in the "E Coli and Bean Sprouts" story
    • Unpasteurized or raw milk and raw milk cheeses can be contaminated with a number of different bacteria that can make people sick[20]
  • Pesticides
    • About 1 in 4 organic produce bears some pesticide residue, usually as a result of "pesticide drift".
Finally, some foods are poisonous if eaten raw and you should avoid them.[12-14]

References

  1. Fact or Fiction: Raw veggies are healthier than cooked ones
  2. The HEATOX project (link was removed after retrieval)
  3. When You Heat Natural Plant-Based Foods You Can Get Cancer-Causing Acrylamide
  4. Heat-generated food toxicants: identification, characterisation and risk minimisation
  5. E Coli and Bean Sprouts
  6. Foodborne Illness (MedlinePlus)
  7. Will Washing and Peeling Help? (EWG)
  8. "Juiceman's Power of Juicing" by Jay Kordich
  9. "Eating Well for Optimum Health" by Adnrew Weil, M.D.
  10. Eating Organic, Local, and Seasonal Foods (Travel and Health)
  11. Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked To Townsend Farms Frozen Berries From Costco
  12. 7 Everyday Foods That Just Happen To Be Poisonous
  13. Yes, Apple Seeds and Cherry Pits are Poisonous
  14. Blending Fruit Seeds In Your Green Smoothies – Beneficial or Dangerous?
  15. Raw Food for Dummies
  16. Hemolytic-uremic syndrome (Wikipedia)
    • Most HUS cases are preceded by an episode of infectious, sometimes bloody, diarrhea acquired as a foodborne illness or from a contaminated water supply and caused by E. coli O157:H7, although Shigella, Campylobacter and a variety of viruses have also been implicated.
  17. Four Important Cleaning Tasks In Your Morning Routine (Travel To Health)
  18. The Type of Food that Will Slow Nearly EVERY Inflammatory Disease...
  19. Acrylamide Is Common in Standard American Diet
  20. Raw milk and cheese cause 840 times more illnesses than pasteurized products

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