Raw Or Cooked: That Is The Question

by Global Master Chef Karl Guggenmos

In recent years, the trend to eat food in its raw stage has become a popular trend or maybe better yet a “fad”. However, the question may be: Is it really better to eat food raw or do we need to cook it?

It’s not an easy question to answer. In our experienced opinion there are some principles that apply:

Most foods can be eaten raw but not all foods should be eaten raw. The main rationale for eating raw food is that it will preserve all the natural nutrients, while cooking may deplete or alter some of them.

The most compelling arguments for cooking food is that many food supplies are contaminated with pollutants and other contaminants and can cause serious health problems.

In recent years, the trend to eat food in its raw stage has become a popular trend or maybe better yet a “fad”. However, the question may be: Is it really better to eat food raw or do we need to cook it?

It’s not an easy question to answer. In our experienced opinion there are some principles that apply:

1) Most foods can be eaten raw but not all foods should be eaten raw. The main rationale for eating raw food is that it will preserve all the natural nutrients, while cooking may deplete or alter some of them.

2) The most compelling arguments for cooking food is that many food supplies are contaminated with pollutants and other contaminants and can cause serious health problems.

3) Our immune and digestive systems have been weakened over time and we no longer can digest raw food easily. When traveling overseas, I see people eating everything raw – including fish, snakes, bugs, even chicken and they don’t seem to get sick. We often think that we are healthier, but it may just be that they are immune to some of the contaminants.

4) The more humans manipulate and process our food, the more we alter the nutritional value and integrity of the food. Convenience and processing has changed the natural state of our food so much, that their benefit is lost and in many instances, harm has been done to our health. Studies have observed bone loss and Vitamin B-12 depletion to name a few. (1,2)

Here are my thoughts on what to eat raw and what NOT to eat raw and be better off.

Eat raw:

Nuts – because roasting or adding things like sugar or salt will add calories and other undesirable items.
Most Vegetables – because any cooking method depletes nutrients. However lightly steaming them may be ok. Remember that roasting or grilling them is popular but it will add fat (calories) depending on what is used.
Fruits – I believe fruits are absolutely best when eaten raw because they taste like mother nature intended and also keep all their nutrients.
Herbs – They are one of the most healthy food items we can eat and will provide their most potent health power when added/eaten raw.
Spices – The same is true for spices. While some are dried and ground, for the most part, they are not manipulated much.
Some grains in their early stage of growing

Eat Cooked

Seafood – I know, I know….I can already hear lovers of Asian or other Ethnic food complaining. However, to me the risk of health issues outweighs the enjoyment of raw seafood. Our oceans are polluted and even farm -raised seafood now has issues. So, it’s better to cook seafood. By the way, marinating is a way of cooking as well. Adding the citric acids of lemons, limes, vinegar, oranges and others citrus will cook the seafood in its own way.

Meats – Again, while some may argue about the great tastes of dishes like steak tartare (raw chopped beef with egg yolk, capers, onions), carpaccio, raw sliced meat and others popular variations, they do carry health risks (salmonella, parasites, Campylobacter, etc.). In addition, I even saw a fad of eating raw chicken.

Grains, Pulses, Legumes and other foods obviously need to be cooked otherwise we can’t digest them.

Once again, I believe that ALL foods should be left in their natural stage as much as possible and cooking them should only be done to aid and help in the digestive process.

Arch Intern Med. 2005 Mar 28;165(6):684-9. Low bone mass in subjects on a long-term raw vegetarian diet., Fontana L1, Shew JL, Holloszy JO, Villareal DT.
The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 135, Issue 10, 1 October 2005, Pages 2372–2378,