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The Benefits of Eating Raw

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Eat your way to better health by laying off the heat.

Give your oven a rest. In addition to saving time and keeping the indoor inferno at bay, there are nutritional benefits to keeping certain foods away from a hot pan. Heat-sensitive nutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, and gut-friendly probiotics, start to break down when temperatures get above 118°F; the higher the heat and longer the cook time, the greater the nutrient loss (in most cases).

Plus, most of the foods you can eat raw are lower in calories and higher in fiber, and come from whole, plant-based foods. Raw foods also take longer to chew, which forces us to slow down our often-rushed eating routine and brings an extra layer of mindfulness to our meals.

We aren't suggesting that you give up cooking: There are plenty of nutrient-rich foods, such as dried beans, most whole grains, and many lean proteins, that should not be eaten raw.

Rather, take advantage of the summer produce at the supermarket or local farmers' market that doesn't have to be cooked—foods such as beets, leafy greens, corn peppers, and summer squash. Minimum heat + more fruits and veggies = maximum nutrition.

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Raw Food Basics

RINSE FIRST
Wash your produce properly. Simply rinsing it with water can remove up to 98% of bacteria. According to the Center for Food Safety, tap water is just as effective in cleaning produce as pricey produce washes.

THINK IN VOLUME
Raw fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water and fill you up more quickly without adding many calories. Portion size grows with raw foods—1 pound of spinach (about 12 cups) wilts down to just 1 cup when cooked. Bottom line: You get to eat more food when you go raw.

MAKE EXCEPTIONS
Not all produce is in its most healthful state raw. A few foods—sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash, asparagus, and tomatoes (surprise!)—actually contain compounds that the body has more access to when cooked.

CONSIDER YOUR HEALTH
Heat kills bacteria. Anyone with a potentially weaker immune system (children, seniors, cancer patients, and pregnant women) need to be extra careful of raw foods, which have a higher risk of carrying harmful bacteria.