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Cooked food may be more nutritious than raw

Consumer Reports News: December 08, 2011 10:08 AM

I love to cook. I find an afternoon spent in the kitchen with my kids baking up a storm or preparing a big festive dinner to be incredibly therapeutic. (My teenage daughter calls this “getting my bake on.”) My preferred way of dealing with stress often leads to a house full of the smell of baked goods and a groaning table.

Now it turns out that all that prepping and cooking of the food I serve my family is not only calming for me, but also may be more nutritious for them. In an innovative study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that mice fed a cooked diet of either meat or sweet potatoes were able to get more energy from the food than if they were fed the same item raw. This held true even when the mice ate less of the cooked food.

I’m sure this study is going to get a fire going under raw food advocates (pun intended). True, this is just one study, not conducted on humans, so it's hardly definitive. But it does make a certain amount of sense. Cooking foods, especially meats and starches like potatoes or grains, not only helps destroy potential pathogens, but can make it easier for our bodies to digest (just thinking of a stomach full of raw potato gives me indigestion).

Now, I’m not going to start cooking everything that comes through my kitchen (lettuce? Eeewww!). I enjoy the taste of some things raw - mainly of the fruit and vegetable variety. And sushi is an almost sacred food to my son, so definitely no frying pan for that one. Not to mention that since you can’t get energy from food that you don’t eat, my main focus will still be on trying to prepare nutritious foods in a way that gets my kids to actually consume them. But now I’ve got even more of a reason to spend time preparing and cooking foods we love since that extra effort may be making them more nutritious for my kids.

Not that I needed another reason to “get my bake on.”

Energetic consequences of thermal and nonthermal food processing [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]

Erin Riddell

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