Is raw food better than cooked food?
Does cooking food make it less healthy?
BHF dietitian Victoria Taylor says:
Cooking food can reduce some nutrients, such as vitamin C and some B vitamins, but other nutrients (such as lycopene in tomatoes or beta carotene in carrots) are more available to our bodies if they are cooked.
It’s good to eat some raw foods – such as fresh fruit and salads – as part of our 5-a-day, but we don’t need to eat all our food raw to have a nutritious diet.
How you cook your food is as important as whether you cook it, in terms of the nutritional content of your meal
Eating all our food raw could also mean we end up lacking in nutrients and energy, as the variety of foods we could eat would be quite limited.
Although it is true that we should be eating more fruit and vegetables, we also need other foods that require cooking, like starchy carbohydrates, to give us the full range of nutrients for good health. Cooking makes protein foods, even plant-based ones, easier and safer to eat. In the case of some plant pulses like kidney beans, cooking is essential to remove toxins. While eggs, meat and fish are sometimes eaten raw, cooking them helps you avoid food poisoning.
How you cook your food is as important as whether you cook it, in terms of the nutritional content of your meal. To retain more heat-sensitive vitamins, cook vegetables lightly by steaming or microwaving them and stopping while they still have some crunch, rather than boiling them to death. Avoid deep frying or adding saturated fats like butter, coconut oil, duck fat, lard and ghee. And avoid adding salt and sugar while cooking. Try herbs and spices instead.
Meet the expert
Victoria Taylor is a registered dietitian with 20 years’ experience. Her work for the NHS focused on weight management and community programmes for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. She leads the BHF's work on nutrition.