What foods can be eaten raw and what is better to cook?

What foods can be eaten raw and what is better to cook

We review the advantages and disadvantages of culinary methods: when is it better to grill, fry, boil, cook…? What effects do they have on the nutrients?

What foods can be eaten raw and what is better to cook

In general, it can be said that cooking is beneficial for foods of animal origin, cereals and legumes, and that it has more disadvantages than advantages for fruits, nuts and some vegetables.


Although raw foods must predominate in the diet, cooking them helps in some cases to make them more digestible. In addition, it removes the danger of ingesting pathogenic germs or toxic substances. Finally, cooking makes some foods with unappetizing tastes, smells, or textures more appealing.


They constitute the basis of the diet (they should provide 50-60% of the daily energy).

Being foods rich in starch, they require cooking to be digested.

  • The pulses (lentils, beans, chickpeas, soybeans, etc.) is best cooked consume. In this way, the toxic substances that they may contain are eliminated and they become more digestible.
  • Young legumes, such as lima beans and peas, can be eaten raw in moderate amounts.

The alternative is to take them sprouted, which also breaks down the starch.

Most of the towns that have the habit of taking these sprouts scald them slightly. This is what, for example, Chinese cuisine does with bean sprouts. A brief warm-up destroys the anti-thyroid substances and makes them more assimilable and healthy.


Cooked foods are somewhat softened, making them easier to eat for people who have problems with their teeth.

Heating also makes food predigested, which is helpful for sensitive stomachs.


Cooking destroys pathogens that might be found in food, so its intake becomes safer from the microbiological point of view.

By heating the food for a few minutes until it reaches 65-70 ºC in its center, parasitic risks can also be eliminated.

Cooking also inhibits certain toxic substances that some foods contain, such as:

  • The proteases, lectins and hemagglutinins found in legumes such as soybeans, which intervene by preventing the absorption of vitamins A, B12, D and E.
  • The solanine in potatoes or eggplants not ripe.
  • The linamarina (cyanogenic glycoside) of cassava.



It is the healthiest cooking method, since it does not need fat and the food preserves most of its vitamins and minerals by not being diluted in water. The taste, aroma and color of food are also better preserved. The leftover broth can be used to make soup, rice, etc.


The temperature that is reached is lower than that of roasting or frying, since while the water is boiling at ambient pressure it does not exceed 100 ° C. This way, vitamins and other nutrients are less disturbed.

Some are lost in the cooking water, especially the mineral salts, but this water can be reserved for later use.

The food is not impregnated with oil, so it is more digestive than if it is fried. In addition, the fat that the food may contain does not decompose due to the high temperatures as occurs in roasting.

It is advisable to add the oil or fat when cold, which also contributes to making boiled foods more digestive.


When grilling, in the oven or on the grill, it is not essential to use fat, so the caloric intake is reduced. By not being submerged in water, the food does not lose nutrients by dilution. In addition, its flavor is enhanced.

But in general very high temperatures are reached, which destroys a good part of the vitamins and active ingredients of the vegetables.

Burning or roasting a food produces carcinogenic substances, especially in meat and fish. Part of the proteins and carbohydrates are degraded in the toast crust, thereby reducing their nutritional value.


Food acquires a more intense flavor, but due to the high temperature (160-200 ° C, or more) there is a loss of nutrients (especially vitamins).

In addition, there are unfavorable changes in the oilCarcinogens can be formed, especially when frying meat.

Food is impregnated with it, which increases its caloric intake. That is why it is better to put them in the pan with the oil already hot: a crust forms on the surface that isolates the inside of the food.

Sautéing is less inconvenient than frying as it is quick and the food absorbs less oil.


These are mixed cooking methods.

  • In stewing, food is cooked in a fatty medium to which some water has been added.
  • In stews, they are cooked in both a watery and a fatty medium but they have received a previous sauté or they receive it at the end of the process.
  • In sautéing, the food is fully or partially cooked without turning color, over a low heat with very little fat and the water from the food itself.
  • The stir-fry is very similar but the food does brown.

The advantages and disadvantages of these cooking methods combine those of roasting, fried and boiled.


Microwaves vibrate the molecules of water, sugars, and certain fats at a rate of about 2.4 billion times per second.

Of all the substances that make up a food, the most active is water. Microwaves shake their molecules from one place to another, which when colliding with those of their environment, they communicate energy, but disordered, which increases the temperature. This heat is not produced on the surface, as in conventional ovens, but inside the food.


  • Research on microwaved broccoli and carrots reveals the deformation of the molecular structure of nutrients.
  • It causes significant variations in protein in food and, in particular, in baby milk.
  • In precooked dishes, the carcinogenic substance dieylexyladepate from plastic wrap passes into food in an amount between 200 and 500 ppm (the Food and Drug Administration limit is 0.05 ppm). Among the migrated substances are xenoestrogens, substances linked to the decrease in sperm and breast cancer.


Pasteurization is a gentle treatment, at temperatures normally below 100 ºC, which is used to extend the shelf life of food for several days, as in the case of milk or bottled fruit.

It inactivates enzymes and destroys microorganisms that are sensitive to high temperatures (non-sporulated bacteria, such as yeasts and molds). It causes minimal changes in the nutritional value and characteristics of the food.


The materials with which it is cooked produce reactions to heat and can interfere with health.

  • Glass. It is the most inert material of those used in the kitchen, along with ceramics. It does not interact with food and does not release any substance that can pass into it.
  • Iron and copper. They release small amounts of these metals that could become toxic. To reduce them, avoid direct contact with highly acidic products, such as citrus fruit juice, tomato or vinegar.
  • Aluminum. It is quite unstable and passes in a certain amount to food. It is not recommended as a kitchen material, because although there is no conclusive evidence, it is suspected that excess aluminum in the diet can be toxic to the nervous system.
  • Stainless steel. It is one of the most stable materials, although highly acidic foods can cause it to release small amounts of nickel, one of the metals that make up the alloy.
  • Mud. Clay utensils coated internally with bright enamel should be discarded unless it is guaranteed that they do not contain lead, as it is easily released and can cause chronic poisoning.
  • Teflon. It is used to coat the inside of non-stick pans. It is safe as long as 300 ºC is not exceeded and scratches on the protective layer are avoided. Substances released from Teflon when scratched with a hard scouring pad or metal object can be carcinogenic.


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