Cooking food is an essential part of human life, and it has been done since ancient times. It is a process of preparing food by applying heat to it, either by boiling, roasting, frying or baking. Although many people believe that raw food is better and more nutritious than cooked food, research has shown that cooking food increases the nutritional value and digestibility of the food. As a result, some foods are more nutritious when cooked than when they are eaten raw.
Firstly, cooking food helps to make it easier to digest. When food is cooked, it softens and breaks down the tough fibres and cell walls in the food. This means that the enzymes in our digestive tract can more easily access and break down the nutrients in the food. For example, cooking legumes such as beans and lentils makes them more digestible, which also increases their bioavailability of protein, iron and other vital minerals. Similarly, cooking vegetables such as carrots or kale increases the availability of nutrients, such as beta-carotene or vitamin C, making them easier to absorb by our bodies.
Secondly, cooking food helps to kill off harmful bacteria and viruses. Raw food may contain harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause illness or food poisoning. Cooking food at high temperatures helps to kill these bacteria and viruses, making the food safe to eat. For example, cooking meats such as poultry or beef kill off any harmful bacteria like E.coli or Salmonella that may be present. This is also true for vegetables that may have been exposed to harmful microorganisms.
Thirdly, cooking food helps to release nutrients that may be otherwise locked away. Some nutrients are bound within cell walls or tough fibres of the food, making it difficult for our bodies to access them. Applying heat during cooking can help to break down these barriers and release these nutrients, making them more accessible for our bodies to use. A classic example is the cooking of spinach, which makes the iron and other minerals more readily available to our bodies.
Finally, cooking food can increase the antioxidant content of food. Antioxidants are compounds found in certain foods that help to protect our cells from damage caused by free-radicals. Research has suggested that cooking food like tomatoes, carrots and broccoli increases the antioxidant content by releasing antioxidants from the cell walls of these vegetables, compared to these nutrients being less available in raw food.
Cooking food helps to increase the nutritional value of the food. Cooking softens the cell walls of the food, making it easier to absorb, kills off harmful bacteria and viruses, releasing nutrients that we may not have access to otherwise, and can increase antioxidant content. Therefore, while raw food may be good, cooked food is better in terms of its nutritional value.