So is cooking a sin?
Should I never step foot in my kitchen again and turn on the oven or a stove burner?
Can I turn my kitchen into a sewing room or home office?
Probably not…as much as I wish that were true quite often…
But thoughts and opinions as to what should be cooked, and how much it should be cooked for as far as temperature and time, run the gamut from one nutritionist to the next, from one individual to the next.
Typically, raw food advocates will begin to persuade you into their way of thinking through the importance of enzymes.
Enough Info on Enzymes…Sorry, but I don’t care to spend the next umpteen thousand hours learning about enzymes, when I barely even know what an enzyme is…So here’s the little bit of information that I have learned at this point.
There are two types of enzymes that are used by the body to break foods down into smaller, more operable nutritional units.
- First, there are the “endogenous enzymes,” those enzymes produced within the body itself through the pancreas.
- Next there are the “exogenous enzymes,” found in the foods that we eat.
And it is important that we eat more foods that contain these “exogenous enzymes” so that it is easier for our bodies to fully digest nutrients from our diet, without making them work more than they should in this process.
True advocates of the raw foods diet believe that any food heated over about 112 degrees Fahrenheit loses way too many, if not all, of these vital exogenous enzymes and that cooking foods can rob them of almost all nutritional benefits, such as antioxidants and vitamins.
However, most nutritionists, and real people, agree that the best diet is one that includes both raw and cooked vegetables.
Sorry I ate enough raw black-eye peas and “butter beans” growing up having to shell them as a little kid, so the idea of eating a single raw legume frightens me while at the same time making me think about the days when our biggest worry in the world was how to get the purple stains off our fingers before going into town the next weekend.
So how do you know which ones to cook and which ones not to cook?
When considering whether a specific vegetable should or should not be cooked, it is important to look at both how many nutrients that particular food has to offer and how our bodies are best able to actually absorb these nutrients.
Each specific vegetable has its own “heat labile point,” that specific temperature at which the food begins to lose some of its nutrients during the cooking process. At this temperature, chemical configurations within the food begin to change, enzymes are lost, and the food becomes less beneficial.
But this temperature varies…so there is no magical temperature that should really be regarded as biblical for all produce.
And different nutrients respond differently to the cooking process in general.
Reasons to Keep Cooking
1.Cooking food can help these foods release their nutrients, makes these nutrients easier for the body to absorb, and obviously make them taste a lot better also. For example, certain nutrients—such as the antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene found in carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes—and certain minerals, such as iron, are better absorbed after they have been heated.
2. Cooking foods can make certain vegetables—such as peppers and mushrooms—actually become more nutrient-dense.
3. Cooking foods helps gets rid of the “bad stuff”–-Cooking can destroy certain harmful compounds, bacteria, and pathogens often found in foods, specifically fish, eggs, and meat. For example, goitrogen compounds—which are commonly found in such cruciferous vegetables as kale, broccoli, and cauliflower—can block thyroid function and contribute to hypothyroidism, but these compounds are mostly deactivated by exposure to heat. Another example of a compound that is deactivated by exposure to heat would be the lectins and phytic acid found in grains and legumes. These compounds could eventually prevent your body from absorbing minerals altogether.
4. On the other hand, cooking foods also has the potential to increase the amount of “good stuff” that you get from the foods that you eat. An example of this would be steamed broccoli having more sulforaphanes, a compound in broccoli that fights cancer.
5. Cooking can improve “digestibility,” the total amount of time food remains in our digestive system. The longer a food sits in our digestive tracts, the more likely that the food will begin to ferment in the digestive tract and cause problems such as gas, inflammation, and “leaky gut” syndrome.
So for this reason, and the fact that I am a true Southern belle from Mississippi who loves cooked black-eyed peas—in fact make that blackeyed peas cooked with fatback and cooked for hours before finally eating them, and cornbread with lots and lots of butter—I refuse to settle down to a strictly raw foods diet…and if I won’t do it myself, I’m not even going to ask the other members of our family how they feel about this issue at all.
However, I probably won’t be cooking my black-eyed peas with fat back for hours at a time any more, especially now that I know that the best way to cook vegetables is by steaming them…because steaming vegetables uses very little water and takes only a short amount of time, meaning that my blackeyed peas may or may not taste nearly as good, but at least they shouldn’t lose very many nutrients at all.
Like I said earlier…
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