Some of the nutrients in the food we eat, specifically enzymes, are severely reduced or eliminated by cooking. For instance broccoli has been proven to be a very effective anti-cancer food. It has a very high value raw but cooking broccoli destroys 90+ percent of anti-cancer compound sulforaphane. More here
Cooking improves digestibility -- whoops
The Economist recently ran an article on the evolutionary role of cooking. According to Dr. Richard Wrangham, of Harvard University, cooking alters food in three important ways.
- It breaks starch molecules into more digestible fragments
- It “denatures” protein molecules, so that their amino-acid chains unfold and digestive enzymes can attack them more easily
- And heat physically softens food. That makes it easier to digest, so even though the stuff is no more calorific, the body requires fewer calories to break it down
This means that in the stomach and small intestine, where it can be absorbed, cooking increases the share of food digested from 50% to 95%. This is supported by a study in which rats fed on softer pellets (similar to what happens to food after you cook it) weighed 30% more after 26 weeks than rats fed the same weight of standard pellets. The difference was because the rats expended less energy digesting the softer pellets. Think about this for a moment. Making food more digestible (as in cooking) increases the body weight of rats by an astounding 30% in as little as 26 weeks. Can you say whoops?
The bottom line is that Dr Wrangham theorizes that the main cause of the modern epidemic of obesity is not overeating but the rise of processed foods -- which packs on more weight than raw food on a calorie by calorie basis. I would say that it’s a combination of both. Studies have already shown that we’re consuming some 523 calories more per day than we did just 30 years ago. Combine that with 30% more weight gain from the same calories because our diets have shifted overwhelmingly to cooked and processed foods, and you have the makings of an obesity epidemic.
The corollary, of course, is that eating a higher percentage of raw foods will help you lose weight on a calorie by calorie basis.
Raw food is more alive
This is tough to prove. In fact, it’s not even possible to reach agreement among raw foodists as to exactly what the “life force” in raw food actually is. Some people equate it to enzymes, others to non-denaturing, and others to the presence of the more mystical prana or qi. At that point, however, the discussion becomes metaphysical rather than pragmatic.
What people can agree on, though, is that raw food sits lighter in the digestive tract than cooked food. Think of the difference in the way you feel after a large salad or a smoothie versus after eating a Thanksgiving dinner or a couple of double cheeseburgers and an order of fries, or an enchilada and bean special at a Mexican restaurant. As Forrest Gump might say, “Heavy is as heavy does.”
Eating a Breast Cancer Preventive DietBy Laura LaValle, RD, LD
If you have read any breast cancer prevention articles over the last month, you probably saw several articles on making sure your diet includes plenty of omega-3 fats as well as high antioxidant-containing foods like berries, colorful vegetables, beans/legumes, and green tea -- all to help your body keep damage from free radicals to a minimum. This is all good advice, but it does not adequately address the other side of the equation -- avoiding foods that promote inflammation in the body.
Prevent Insulin Resistance
Not controlling your intake of refined sugars, white breads, pastas, soft drinks and fast foods can lead to insulin resistance, which is a known contributor of inflammation and oxidative stress in the body1. Inflammation caused by poor dietary habits not only greatly increases risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but also increases risk of cancer, including breast cancer.2
Several large human studies have found that diet plays a large role in increasing inflammation and the risk of type 2 diabetes -- and that leads to an increased risk of cancer. The worst diets appear to be those high in fructose-sweetened soft drinks, refined grains, diet soft drinks, and processed meat and low in red wine, coffee, cruciferous vegetables, and colored vegetables.
One study found that insulin resistance, even without the women being diabetic, significantly increased breast cancer risk -- and this effect was even independent of body weight or body fat distribution.3 Another study of 60,000 women followed over 20 years found that being insulin resistant not only increased breast cancer risk, but increased the risk of being diagnosed with more advanced stages of cancer.4
So clearly, controlling insulin resistance is one of the most powerful ways we can reduce our breast cancer risk. For most people, this will mean eating diets that limit high glycemic index and high glycemic load foods.
Increase Levels of Protective Estrogen
As my husband Jim wrote, cabbage family vegetables which are high in sulfur compounds improve methylation in the body that helps prevent the buildup of unhealthy estrogen metabolites called 16OH. In addition to that, broccoli in particular, contains two substances, diindolyl methane (DIM) and indole-3-carbinol (I3C) that help the liver make enzymes that neutralize 16OH production.5-6
However, to achieve levels that significantly impact 16OH production, it's necessary to take it in a concentrated supplement form. Several clinical trials have demonstrated the ability of a DIM supplement to significantly increase the ratio of good to bad estrogen metabolites in as little as four weeks.7-8
Decrease Levels of Harmful Estrogen
Phytoestrogens are substances in plants that in effect, block bad estrogen metabolites from being able to exert their harmful effects. Phytoestrogens are found in many plant foods; soybeans, peas, beans, and pomegranates are foods that are particularly high in beneficial phytoestrogens. (Soybeans are a two-edged sword however, because with excessive intake they can inhibit thyroid hormone synthesis.)
Plant lignans are a type of dietary fiber found in high amounts in flaxseeds. Lignans increase something called sex hormone binding globulin, which can bind to estrogens and carry them out of the body. They also reduce levels of beta-glucuronidase, the pathogenic intestinal bacteria that prevents harmful estrogen metabolites from being eliminated. Regular inclusion of lignan-containing ground flaxseeds or flaxseed oils may help prevent breast cancer by aiding the body's elimination of excessive estrogen.
And finally, reducing your exposure to environmental estrogens (xenoestrogens) is important because they may trigger tissue proliferation much like excessive natural estrogens.9 Many pesticides are xenoestrogens, and this is the reason we recommend eating organically raised foods as much as possible. Phthalates in plastics are also xenoestrogenic, so avoid eating or drinking out of plastic containers or microwaving with plastic wraps.
- Sies H, Stahl W, Sevanian A. J Nutr. 2005;135(5):969-72.
- Schulze MB, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;82(3):675-84; quiz 714-5.
- Bruning P et al. International J of Cancer 52 (4): 511-16.
- Cust A, et al. J Breast Cancer Res and Treatment, July 2008.
- Bradlow HL et al. Ann NY Acad Sci. 1996;768:180-200.
- Bell MC, et al. Gynecol Oncol. 2000;78(2):123-129.
- Dalessandri KM, et al. Journal of Nutrition and Cancer. 2004;50(2):161-7.
- Wang Z, et al. Mol Cancer Ther. 2008 Feb;7(2):341-9.
- Watson C, et al. Steroids. Feb. 2007; 72(2):124-134.
[Note: Laura B. LaValle, RD, LD is presently the director of dietetics nutrition at LaValle Metabolic Institute (formerly part of Living Longer Institute). She offers personal nutritional counseling at LMI for clients who need help with their diet in relation to illness or disease. Laura also provides educational services in the areas of health promotion, wellness, and disease prevention. To learn more, click here]
This article appears courtesy of Early to Rise’s Total Health Breakthroughs, offering alternative solutions for mind, body and soul. For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.totalhealthbreakthroughs.com