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Is Cooked Food Poison?

Looking at the Science on Raw vs. Cooked Foods

by Jean-Louis Tu
selected portions contributed or co-authored by:
Tom Billings, Ward Nicholson

Copyright © 1999 by Jean-Louis Tu. All rights reserved.
Contact author for permission to republish.

A detailed TABLE OF CONTENTS linked to all portions of the article can be
found at the bottom of this first page of introduction

Introduction to the controversy

The cooking = toxicity = disease paradigm. One of the most common ideas in raw-food circles is that most diseases are due to toxemia, and that one cannot be truly healthy without discontinuing what is believed to be one of the major sources of such internal toxemia: cooked food, even if such food is unprocessed in any other respect except by heat.

While it certainly appears true that many people experience (sometimes impressive) improvements when first coming to raw food, it also appears that long-time pure raw-foodists who have maintained the diet for many years are rare. Anecdotal evidence also suggests (no peer-reviewed research is available on the issue, to our knowledge) that those eating 100% raw foods do not appear to be any healthier on average than people eating predominantly raw, and that raw diets are not the only diets that may work.

Evidence, experience, and arguments addressed in this paper. The material presented here is based on (A) an extensive review of scientific literature and the logical conclusions to be drawn or inferred from it, as well as (B) personal experience with eating 100% or close to 100% raw food, and reading about many other people's experiences (since little if any scientific research is available on raw-fooders). After looking into and examining here what are, we believe, virtually all of the arguments traditionally offered from both sides for and against cooking, the conclusion we are led to is that the dangers of cooking have been largely overstated. However, at the same time, it would obviously be erroneous to say that eating raw doesn't affect our health in any way, and in fact we do believe the knowledge available indicates eating at least partially raw is important.

Subject is not black-and-white. The objective here will be to investigate one by one all of the known effects of heating on food, and examine with a critical eye all the classical raw-foodist claims about the necessity to eat raw. In particular, we'll see that some of these claims appear to be true or partially true; others wrong or very doubtful; and also presented will be some benefits of cooking in certain situations--which as we will see depend very much on the particular food in question.

The present paper is quite long, unavoidably, due to the complexity of the problem. Things are not black-and-white in this subject, contrary to what many people believe. The hope here is to at least convince the reader of the last point.

Logical sequence of paper. We will begin our look first in Part 1 with such questions as: Is cooked food toxic? What is the influence of cooking on carcinogenesis? etc. Then, in Part 2, we'll attempt to determine whether raw food is more nutritious than cooked food (what about enzymes, vitamins, etc?). Finally, in Part 3, we'll discuss the question of 100% raw diets versus "predominantly raw" diets.

T A B L E   O F   C O N T E N T S

Is Cooked Food "Toxic"?

Does Cooked Food Contain Less Nutrition?

Discussion: 100% Raw vs. Predominantly Raw


GO TO PART 1: Is Cooked Food "Toxic"?
GO TO PART 2: Does Cooked Food Contain Less Nutrition?
GO TO PART 3: Discussion: 100% Raw vs. Predominantly Raw

Back to Research-Based Appraisals of Alternative Diet Lore

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