Heat – the Enemy of Nutrients

From the time we’re small children, we’re taught to be careful with matches. Why? Well, beyond the obvious concern of burning the house down, our parents don’t want us to get burned! Even just going to the beach for the day; what do we do? We apply sunscreen, lest we get burned. Anyone who has ever had a sunburn knows how much they sting. So, if heat, fire, and the sun can be so detrimental to our bodies, what about the foods we eat?

Now, some would argue against eating too much raw foods, or even under cooked foods. We’ve all seen stories in the news about children getting sick from eating hamburgers that weren’t cooked long enough. But, those were nearly all about meat that was contaminated by E. coli, and the heat would have killed those bacteria. On the flip side, that same heat destroys so much of the nutritional benefits of that same food. When compared, a diet that is rich in raw or minimally cooked foods, as opposed to baked or deep-fried foods, is much better for you.

The best types of cooking are steaming, boiling, and grilling. The reason is that they generally accomplish one of the following: the food isn’t cooked at an overly high temperature, and they aren’t cooked for long. It might surprise you to know this, but all it takes is cooking a food at a temperature higher than 117 (Fahrenheit) for more than three minutes, and the negatives impacts begin. Here are just some of the things that happen to foods kept at high temperatures for a long time:

The amino acids in the proteins essentially coagulate! They form strong links between the acid chains, and become very difficult for your body to digest. The carbohydrates become caramelized, and are rendered virtually useless to your body. This is much like the process of baking bread when the crust forms. In the old days, we were always told that the best nutrients were in the crust, and that we should eat it. Well, turns out that old wives’ tale was wrong. Other than a bit of roughage, the crust does you no good. And this is what high temperature and a long cooking time does to all carbohydrates!

Then there are the fats. Your body needs fats for metabolism and the construction of new cells. Excess fats are either metabolized or stored in the body. This is how we get the so-called spare tire and love handles. The thing is, too much heat and time breaks down with lipids in the fats, and you end up getting a host of cancer-causing chemicals in your body. Things with fancy names like acrolein, nitrosamines, and benzopyrene, which is one of the worst of the cancer chemicals known to exist!

Many people eat vegetables for the fiber, which is very good for you. Here again, the cellulose in fiber is severely damaged by heat. Many of its vitamins and minerals are destroyed, and the fiber’s effectiveness in helping to keep your colon clear is reduced substantially.

As if that isn’t bad enough; it’s been found that some pesticides – while destroyed by cooking, are still dangerous. The heat causes their molecules to form new compounds, which are just as bad for us to be eating! So, rather than fill up your diet with a lot of baked goods, look into the raw foods. The health benefits are innumerable.