Humans have been heating food for nearly two million years.
Before that, raw foods were the main source of food, but they've been linked to numerous diseases.
So, does cooking your dinner change the way your gut breaks down the meal?
Cold or slightly warm, raw foods are everywhere. From fruits to nuts and even sushi. There's been a 92% increase in raw food orders in the past year. Raw food studies have linked raw food to weight loss where men are nearly 15% under normal weight range and women are 25%. But that's not the story.
A new study by University of California San Francisco and Harvard University shows raw and cooked foods might each have a different impact on your gut microbiome. That's the collection of microbes that live in your intestines and help you digest food.
"The gut microbiome is a major source of immune inflammatory molecules, some of which can access the brain," explains Seema Bhatnagar, PhD, associate professor of anesthesiology at University of Pennsylvania.
Researchers from the schools found mice that ate sweet potatoes developed significantly different microbiomes when the foods were consumed raw. In fact, the animals on the raw potato diet had poorer bacterial diversity in their gut, fewer bacteria and lost more weight.
Scientists then repeated the study in humans and again found clear differences in gut bacteria when the participants were exposed to raw foods and cooked foods.
Other studies have shown cooking food can alter its nutritional components and may provide more energy.
Researchers say they want to continue studying the effects of raw and cooked foods to learn more about how they affect your body.
Interestingly, the scientists found that mice's gut didn't change much when they were fed raw or cooked meat.
Only the potatoes had a dramatic effect.
They say this is likely because potatoes have a high quality of low digestibility, which has properties that are transformed by heat.
RAW VS. COOKED FOODS: HOW THEY CHANGE YOUR GUT
BACKGROUND: Unhealthy diet contributes to approximately 678,000 deaths each year in the U.S., due to nutrition and obesity-related diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. In the last 30 years, obesity rates have doubled in adults, tripled in children, and quadrupled in adolescents. The typical American diet is too high in calories, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars, and does not have enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, calcium, and fiber. Few recognize that unhealthy diet is a leading cause of disability. Yet unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity are leading causes of loss of independence. For example, diabetes is a leading cause of blindness and amputations; bone injuries due to osteoporosis are most likely to occur in the hips, spine, and wrist; and heart attack or stroke can result in difficulty with everyday activities such as walking, bathing, or getting into or out of bed. (Source: https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/why-good-nutrition-important)
RAW VS. COOKED: A raw food diet typically contains 70% of food that hasn't been cooked or processed. People eating a raw food diet consume a lot of fresh, dehydrated, and fermented foods. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when women followed either an average Western diet, a wholesome nutrition diet (based on healthy dietary recommendations), or a raw food diet, more nutrients weren't always better. Participants in the raw food diet group consumed more beta-carotene per day than any other group, however, participants in the wholesome nutrition diet group absorbed the most of this critical antioxidant. When you cook veggies, you lose some nutrients, but others become more available for your body to use. Cooked vegetables also provide more minerals. Heating releases bound calcium, making more of the mineral available for the body to absorb. A study conducted by Harvard University showed that cooking aids in chewing; increases digestibility; and improves the net energy value of foods. (Source: https://foodrevolution.org/blog/raw-vs-cooked-vegetables/)
EFFECT OF RAW VS. COOKED ON THE GUT: Research by scientists at UC San Francisco and Harvard University has revealed our microbiome responds in different ways to the same foods, depending on whether they are consumed cooked or raw. This study is the first to look at how cooking food changes our gut bacterial diversity. "Our lab and others have studied how different kinds of diet, such as vegetarian versus meat-based diets, impact the microbiome," explains Peter Turnbaugh, senior author on the new research. "We were surprised to discover that no one had studied the fundamental question of how cooking itself alters the composition of the microbial ecosystems in our guts." Lean beef and sweet potatoes were the initial foods of focus and surprisingly, little effect was seen on the animal's microbiome between cooked and raw meat. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, provided different results. "We were surprised to see that the differences were not only due to changing carbohydrate metabolism, but also may be driven by the chemicals found in plants," says Turnbaugh. The research raises a whole host of unanswered questions, such as which foods should be avoided in raw forms and which offer specific nutritional benefits when cooked. (Source: https://newatlas.com/health-wellbeing/cooked-vs-raw-food-affects-gut-microbiome/)