When it comes to eating for weight loss, it's not just what you eat, it’s how you eat it, experts from Harvard University explain on The Conversation. The authors suggest that food processing—like cooking, blending, and mashing—affects calorie content. In every case, the more processed a food is, the more energy it releases.
This means if you eat cooked food, you’re more likely to gain weight, while people who eat raw food are more inclined to lose weight. Why? Highly processed food is more digestible; it’s softer and requires less energy from our bodies to break it down. (Keep in mind that digestibility changes and varies.) Starch becomes more resistant to digestion when it cools after being cooked so the enzymes can’t break down as easily. Stale food, like day-old cooked spaghetti, will provide you with fewer calories than a plate of spaghetti eaten straight from the stove; both technically have the same amount of calories, but very different outcomes.
To scale back on calories, stray from soft white bread in favor of rough whole-wheat varieties; reject processed cheese and reach for natural; and consume raw fruits and veggies over cooked.
Do note that some cooked or processed foods are better for you than their raw counterparts. For example, pasteurizing milk kills bacteria; cooking meat prevents salmonella and E. coli; and cooking carrots, spinach, mushrooms, and asparagus supplies our bodies with more antioxidants.
Here are seven foods that are best eaten raw.
You may love the taste of oil-roasted nuts, but the cooking process takes away some of the snack's nutritional value. Comparing roasted and raw cashews, for example, using the USDA's National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, shows that roasting ups calories and fat, while lowering magnesium and iron.
Onions make you cry for a reason. There are sulphur compounds, along with cancer-fighting antioxidants, present within the onion’s juice, according to a Cornell University study. Eating onions raw can help protect against lung and prostate cancer. Just brush your teeth after.
One medium pepper is only about 32 calories and packs a ton of vitamin C—about 150% of your recommended daily value—which breaks down if cooked above 375°, according to research from the National Institutes of Health. Eating it raw also helps ward off atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart disease.
Fresh seaweed is made up of about 80-90% water, according to research from the Journal of Medicinal Food. It's also one of the greatest sources of chlorophyll available. Edible algae, particularly nori, is extremely high in water-soluble vitamins and minerals, which are easily absorbed into the bloodstream; they're also a good source of iron, calcium, and iodine.
Fruit and vegetable juices from the store can be loaded with added sugars. Cut out the middleman: use fruits and veggies at home to make raw, fresh juice.
Drinking coconut water is as good, if not better, than sports drinks, according to research from the Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health. That’s because coconuts are one of the most naturally hydrating foods and have high levels of electrolytes. You don’t get these hydrating benefits when consuming dried coconut (especially not sweetened). Also, the American Institute for Cancer Research says coconut water is rich in sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
Blueberries have more antioxidants than any other fruit; according to research from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, they contain healthy fiber and a multitude of health benefits thanks to high levels of polyphenols. Similarly, research from the Journal of Food Science found that processing alters polyphenol levels, meaning blueberries are better left raw.