Have you ever wondered what the difference is between raw, cooked, and processed food? This article will help you decide the type of food you should be consuming more for healthy living.
The food industry is growing by leaps and bounds. Processed material, food intermediates, snack foods, ready-to-cook, ready-to-eat foods, fast foods, and food delivery companies and mobile applications have emerged everywhere.
Over the last two decades, with increasing industrialization, we have seen the availability of all those foods in the marketplace that were earlier prepared solely at home. Foods that can be cooked at home can also be ordered by just a phone call or a click away now. This has improved convenience and reduced the time and effort we put in. But, over-dependence on ready foods with changing lifestyles has wreaked great damage on our health. Lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart problems, hypertension, arthritis, depression, and anxiety are very common nowadays in every household. All these disorders are directly linked to our food, and somehow we cannot see this link.
Enzymes are made up of chains of proteins (amino acids), and they play a massive role in the bioavailability of nutrients. Since they are made up of proteins, they cannot withstand high temperatures. When the enzymes are destroyed by heat, they will have a more challenging time digesting the food. They help the body absorb nutrients so that the body can use them properly for different roles. Without the help of digestive enzymes, the body cannot break down food properly or absorb nutrients from them. The enzymes in the raw food will often be enough to help the body digest the raw food you eat.
If we look at the stages of food, it starts from raw food, which grows in fields. It is then harvested and sold either in a raw form or is used to produce processed food in factories. But, the quality of the same food varies distinctly as it passes through several stages. Let us look at each stage.
When a food crop is harvested, what we get is its raw form, which is the best form of food for human health. It contains all the vital nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes intact. When we were an agrarian society, we used to eat a good quantity of raw food, as it was grown in the fields. But slowly, with the urbanization and commercialization of food, raw food consumption has gone down. Raw foods are stored and transported in cold chains and made available to distant areas many days after their harvest, which leads to deterioration in their quality and depletion of nutrients.
When it reaches us in the raw form, it has a good quantity of nutrients still left in it. Eating these foods works as a medicine and can prevent all kinds of lifestyle diseases.
The raw food is being cooked to make it soft and tasty. We heat and boil the food during cooking while also adding oil and spices. Plenty of nutrition is lost during this cooking process. But still, we judge its quality by its taste, color, and presentation. This food is alright to satisfy our hunger and does not harm us. But its medicinal properties will be lost, and it is only good for satiety and gratification. But cooking certain vegetables will make their antioxidants more available to our body than they are in raw foods. Therefore, these foods should be cooked because they may contain harmful bacteria in their raw versions. Cooking food will kill bacteria that may cause food-borne disease.
This is the readymade food that we purchase from shops and eat as it is. Most snack foods are in this category. Intermediaries like oils, sugar, salt, dressings, pastes, etc., are also in the processed category. Even fresh food like milk and milk products are available today in processed and packed form.
Although these foods are tasty, not only is their nutritious value lost, but they also impact our health adversely. Industrial processing changes the biochemistry of nutrition so much that our body system no longer recognizes them as food, and considers them a foreign entity, just like microorganisms, pollutants, allergens, etc., that enter the body. While consuming this processed food, our body’s defense mechanism (immune system) will become active and generate an immune response against these foods to get rid of them. Since the body does not accept these foods, these immune responses over a long period of time can lead to autoimmune disorders. While removing these foreign bodies from the body, our body cells and tissues will also get destroyed as collateral damage. Most modern-day diseases are the outcome of autoimmune disorders.
Lack of time is the main reason for eating readymade foods. But, not much time and cooking skills are required to consume raw foods like fruits, salads, green leaves, sprouts, nuts, and seeds. It is good to consume 40 % raw food, 40 % cooked food with minimally processed ingredients, and less than 20 % processed food. If we do that, we can prevent and reduce the incidence of many modern-day diseases like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, fatty liver, disorders related to hormonal imbalance like hypo or hyperthyroidism, PCOD (polycystic ovarian disease), etc.
Initially, our taste buds may feel some difficulty with this change. But, after a few days of practice, we can alter our taste perception and start enjoying natural tastes. If the reward is better health, it is definitely worth doing this little change.
If we check our food intake, it is primarily processed and cooked food, much more than raw food. Cooked food can be prepared using a minimal amount of processed ingredients. Although we cannot avoid eating processed food totally, we can surely minimize our dependence on it.
Last reviewed at:
18 Jan 2022 - 4 min read
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