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Diet and Nutrition

Is Raw food better?



Is raw food nutrition better than cooked food, if so what percent of our diet should be raw and what percent should be cooked?


Consuming raw foods has its pluses and minuses. Depending upon the type of food you are talking about, you may be getting the maximum nutritional benefits, but also risking your food safety. To preserve as many of the vitamins and minerals as we can, the following tips were recommended in the book `The Essential Guide to Vitamins & Minerals` by E. Somer, M.A., R.D.:

* Purchase only the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables that will be eaten within a few days.

* Store refrigerated foods at less than 40ø F, frozen foods below 0ø F and canned and dry goods in a cool, dry place. Even small fluctuations in temperature can result in considerable loss of vitamin C in frozen foods.

* Store canned or frozen foods for no more than 3 to 5 months as the vitamin content can decline as much as 75% or more with longer storage times.

* Store bulk dried beans and peas, noodles, rice, and flour in dark containers or in the refrigerator to reduce their exposure to ultraviolet light, which destroys vitamin B2.

ALL raw foods have microorganisms that may cause disease (such as salmonella), given the right conditions. If handled properly, the foods are safe (and nutritious) to eat. Here are some suggestions for proper food handling that are detailed in `The Nutrition Bible` by Anderson and Deskins:

* Eggs - store in their original cartons. Cook them thoroughly (until yolks are set) before eating (and this includes whole eggs, yolks or whites used for frostings, puddings, mousses, ice creams, sauces and salad dressings). Use within a month.

* Fish & Shellfish - illnesses from eating raw fishes range from viral intestinal infections to hepatitis to worms and parasites. 85% of these illnesses can be traced to eating raw shellfish (clams, mussels, oysters and scallops). Eat no seafood that hasn`t been thoroughly cooked. All seafood should be gotten home quickly, unwrapped, placed on a clean plate and rewrapped - loosely- with plastic wrap. Cook or freeze fish and shellfish within 24 to 36 hours.

* Meats & Poultry - As with seafood, rush home from the store, unwrap at once, place on a clean plate, cover loosely with plastic food wrap and store in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Cook or freeze within 2 days. Ground meats are the most perishable of all and have the most potentially harmful bugs. Before freezing, shape into patties, wrap snugly, and date. Before cooking, rinse poultry well under cool water (inside and out). Blot red meats dry with paper toweling, then discard the toweling. Cook all meat and poultry thoroughly before eating [a meat thermometer is a good tool to use to make sure internal temperatures are at the recommended levels].

* Raw milk - is not nutritionally superior to pasteurized milk, and from a bacterial standpoint it is definitely inferior. In fact, it is so risky some areas ban its sale.

* Fruits & Vegetables - unbundle any bundled or banded vegetables, discard any soft or decaying pieces, then pop the rest into fresh plastic storage bags. Berries will also last longer if removed from their cartons and placed in a bowl. All vegetables should be unwrapped, then transferred to pristine storage bags. Before serving or cooking, wash all fruits and vegetables carefully in several rinses of tepid water, then peel, if necessary.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) adds these suggestions for raw fruit and vegetable safety:

1. Wash produce in water. Use a scrub brush. Rinse thoroughly.

2. Discard the outer leaves of leafy vegetables (i.e. lettuce).

3. Cut rinds off of melons or scrub the outside of your melon. Melon skins can be washed with a diluted chlorine bleach solution. According to the Ohio Cooperative Extension Service, mix one teaspoon of bleach (regular bleach with no scent) in a gallon of water. Rinse thoroughly. The quantity of bleach used should not exceed one Tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water. For more detailed information, try their website (listed below).

4. Peel waxed fruit and vegetables (waxes can seal in pesticide residues).

5. Peel vegetables such as carrots (this will remove pesticides that remain in or on the peel).

6. Do not cut vegetables on a cutting board or surface that was just used for raw meat (that includes the knife used too). This will cross-contaminate.

7. Do not store vegetables below meat in the refrigerator. The raw meat drippings may fall on them and cause contamination.

8. Keep your refrigerator produce drawer clean and sanitized.

So, without worrying about percentages, I suggest you enjoy at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day (raw or cooked, once carefully handled and prepared) and stick with cooking your meats, fish, poultry and eggs thoroughly as described above. Thanks for your question!

Related Resources:

Ohio Cooperative Extension Service

For more information:

Go to the Diet and Nutrition health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Jane   Korsberg, MS, RD, LD Jane Korsberg, MS, RD, LD
Senior Instructor of Nutrition
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University