January 30

7 Healthy Cooked Foods You Should Be Eating

Filed under More Than Raw Foods by Frederic Patenaude

Normally you hear me talk about raw foods. And indeed, a diet high in raw foods can be tremendous for health. A 100% raw food diet (or close to it) is also quite appropriate for healing purposes, for cutting down body fat, and many people also do very well with it as a long term program.

But for the vast majority of people (myself included), eating 100% raw for life is not realistic or even advisable.

We already know which raw foods are best for health. Let’s talk about some cooked foods that are true nutritional superstars.

By the way, if you eat 100% raw and are happy with it, there’s no point in complaining that I’m telling you that you “should” be eating cooked foods. Obviously, this article is meant for people who want to incorporate both raw and cooked foods to create the ultimate diet… which by the way, is the topic of my next book!

In no particular order…

1) Sweet potatoes

I’ve had a thing for sweet potatoes lately. During WW2, the Japanese living on the islands of Okinawa lived on a diet composed almost exclusively of sweet potatoes. The Asian variety of sweet potatoes is actually blue inside, not orange. But the vegetable is very simple. Is it a coincidence that these people ended up being the longest-lived people in the world?

No doubt, a diet composed mostly of sweet potatoes, with a few other things, can be spartan. But it can also give the body everything it needs. Compared to other complex carbs, sweet potatoes contain more vitamins, especially beta-carotene.

Most people who are sensitive to carbs handle sweet potatoes very well. Baking them is common, but I prefer to peel them, slice them about an inch thick, and steam them in a pot with just enough water to last through the cooking process. I don’t cook them until they are mushy. I leave a little crunch to them.

Cooked that way, they’ll keep a few days in the fridge. That way, you can enjoy sweet potatoes often without having to worry about baking them for an hour.

2) Winter Squash

This is a type of food most people didn’t grow up eating in North America, but they’re true superfoods. Again, they’re alkaline forming and super-rich in minerals, and they fill you up like potatoes or bread, but they’re much easier to digest.

Butternut squash is a classic, but my favorite is the “red kuri squash” called “potimarron” in French. The texture of this one is truly creamy and delicious, and you can cook it with the skin on.

3) Beans

According to the book “The Blue Zones,” one thing that all long-lived people in the world have in common is that they eat beans.

Black beans, soya beans, chickpeas, lentils…. beans are a slow-digesting carb that will give you sustained energy. It’s generally the food that “Junk vegans” don’t eat enough of.

My favorite bean is the black bean, popular in latin America. I cook them for about 2 hours without soaking (but with a quick rinse), with bay leaves, garlic, and one small peeled potato (which you will throw away after).

4) Steamed Greens

Greens are healthy in all their forms, but the advantage of slightly steaming them is that they become much easier to chew, digest and assimilate. Blending or juicing them also achieves similar purposes.

Certain greens are just not that enjoyable to eat raw, like chard and kale. I know, I know, there are little tricks to make them more “chewable” but it’s often not worth it because cooking them for a few minutes does not really alter their nutritional value.

I like to steam kale and add them to salads that are otherwise raw, along with a creamy dressing.

5) Mushrooms

Only Americans add raw mushrooms to salad. This practice is deemed very strange by Europeans, who always cook mushrooms.

There’s a reason to cook mushrooms. The composition of their cell walls are extremely difficult to digest. So if you eat raw mushrooms, you just don’t benefit from them. Cooking them releases significantly more nutritional value. It also destroys some compounds that could make them irritating or toxic in the raw state.

But why eat mushrooms then?

New research shows that they contain powerful compounds that can prevent and fight cancer. That’s why Dr. Fuhrman, author of Eat to Live, so enthusiastically recommend them.

They also fill you up without containing many calories. Plus, they can be delicious too!

6) Rice

The fear campaign against carbs and especially rice is largely undeserved. Rice is a staple for billions of people who for hundreds of years have remained lean, active and healthy eating it.

Rice is generally well-tolerated by most people who are sensitive to other grains, or can’t handle gluten.

Brown rice is considered the healthiest, but its phytate contain may make the minerals in them less accessible. Nonetheless, it’s rich in fiber and easy to digest, and won’t make anybody fat anytime soon. It’s almost impossible to gain weight on a brown rice-based diet because it”s just so filling with so few calories.

White rice, although often put in the rank of “junk food,” is actually a very neutral food that is very easy to digest that it can often be used by people who need extra energy and are otherwise sensitive to other types of complex carbs.

But don’t rule out other types of rice. There’s about 9 types of rice that I personally use and rotate.

Red rice, Black Rice — I love these unusual rice rich in antioxidants. Available in Asian markets or health food stores.

Jasmine rice, basmati — Best to serve with curry and very aromatic!

Parboiled rice. This rice has been partially boiled with the husk and bran to incorporate some of the bran’s nutrients into the interior of the rice. So it’s white rice that has a nutritional profile similar to brown rice. It’s often used in Caribbean rice and beans and is quick to cook.

Sweet rice (or “sticky” rice) – Often used in making Asian dessert recipes, such as sticky rice with mangoes and coconut milk!

Let’s not even get into the other varieties of rice used to making sushi rice, risotto, etc.!

7) Cooked Tomato Products

Both raw and cooked tomatoes are healthy. I don’t subscribe to always trying to isolate specific nutrients in food, such as lycopene in tomatoes. But the fact is that certain nutrients are easier to assimilate in cooked foods, while others are too fragile and heat sensitive that they should be obtained from raw foods.

Raw tomatoes are excellent, but cooked tomatoes can make life worth living sometimes. I’m talking about the incredible aromas of home-made tomato sauce. And it’s true that cooking tomatoes boosts their antioxidant content.

I’ve not covered other important topics of balancing raw and cooked foods, such as quantities, the proper percentage of each, how to avoid “falling off the wagon,” animal foods, wine, and many other exciting topics.

But I will in future articles and of course in my upcoming book… tentatively titled:

Raw Freedom — Combining the Best of Raw With the Healthiest Cooked Foods to Create the Ultimate Diet.

What about you? What cooked foods have you found beneficial to add to a high-raw diet?

29 Responses to “7 Healthy Cooked Foods You Should Be Eating”

  1. Artlady says:

    Glad you came up with a name and I took your survey and gave suggestions. I still wish you would get rid of the word diet and use the word lifestyle. Too many people link that word with a temporary fix.

    I am really happy to see a book out there for people like me who are 80% raw and want to not feel guilty to have cooked also. I need someone to give me permission to eat some cooked and know I am still getting nutrients.

  2. Seema says:

    This is a very informative. Thanks Fred!

  3. suzanne says:

    I, like the previous blogger, am a recent reader of your emails. I belong to so many that it is hard to keep up with them. Your common sense, easy-going sense is refreshing and works for the majority of us all I would think. I try to eat lots of plants raw, but eat rice, steamed greens, occasional pizza piled with vegetables, daily green smoothies, and wild salmon a couple times a week. Need to increase the beans.
    So, I like and agree with what you say. And I like your style.

  4. Peter says:

    Thanks Fred as always for very informative information, now on cooked foods – yes, looks like to me too that one cooked meal seems to be great and the 7 you listed. Cooked foods can provide some extra calories, to add some healthy salt, also a differerent taste for change and can stay in our system longer if we do not overdo it.

  5. Ian Dixon says:

    Err umm Europeans insist on cooking mushrooms? Perhaps you need to meet my European daughter who loves the taste of sliced raw mushrooms on her plate yet give her one that is cooked and she refuses to touch it.
    They need to be very fresh to eat raw in a salad then they are great cooked. Lightly fried in a little soy sauce is a good way that I like.
    Strange thing was that when I went looking then I found that most American mushroom recipes involved cooking them.

  6. Carmella says:

    Salut Fred,

    I just wanted to thank you for today’s post. After eating mostly raw (80% or so) for 12 years I recently developed IBS and IBD in the aftermath of doing 2 liver flushes. As a result now I can only tolerate raw fruits and veggies in a juiced or blended form, and have been eating more cooked foods than I have for a very long time. (I’m making a living from raw foods which makes it even worse in a way as it’s turned my world/identity upside down.) I’m now practically living on winter squash, sweet potato, rice and cooked veggie soup. It’s been very challenging to say the least, and although I know that I really don’t have much of a choice at this point I still catch myself giving me a hard time over this new diet.

    Your post couldn’t have been more timely and is a good reminder to be more gentle on myself about the whole thing. It’s also a relief to know that I’m still putting good stuff into my body and hopefully assisting its healing. 😉

    In light,

  7. Bill Kranker says:


    I am on the fence regarding cooked foods. Althoiugh I sometimes enjoy most of the foods you list, I also notice some issues when I eat a cooked meal. The first issue is a loss in energy. When eating my raw foods I am always in the mood to exercise but after a cooked meal I feel a bit tired. Also I have noticed that I become a little constipated after a cooked meal especially rice. Just some obsevations not a criticism.

    I enjoy your articles,


  8. Val Baxter says:

    So glad to read that some cooked foods are more than OK. Thanks for the tips on what to steam and especially on tips for using sweet potatoes.

  9. Dar says:

    Fred ~ you’re “right on” with your combining raw & lightly cooked to achieve a healthy lifestyle of eating. I agree that “diet” doesn’t have a place in eating good, healthy foods! Your approach is so simple and makes such good sense. I’m about 70% raw and have done so for over 20 years and have enjoyed excellent health. Thanks for your wisdom regarding eating some foods cooked i.e., tomatoes, beans, rice, mushrooms etc. Common sense in eating truly is the key to healthy mind, body & soul. It seems “everything in moderation ~ nothing in excess” may still be a good way to live our lives!

  10. Debbie Lett says:

    I love the article on 7 healthy cooked foods and all the information on this website. I am one who struggles with totally raw. But this is very easy for me, and I have the energy and time to do the things I love instead of continuously having to refuel eating only raw. I know from experience total raw if time allows is very healing and beneficial. Just hard to maintain. Thank you so much for all the advice and information.

  11. Tine says:

    It’s always great to see common sense win the day! Even though I’m high raw myself I often teach raw foods to others who need bring more raw into their diet. Here in the UK it is very difficult to stay fully raw, and rather than fall off the wagon altogether it’s better to have some nutrient dense cooked food.

    One thing I always have a problem with when recipe books are written…most of them are rarely written for one person. I really hope you take this on board. It is easy to double up or more but rarely does it work to divide the recipe ingredients and still make it taste the way it was intended…!

  12. Basha Benjamin says:

    I totally disagree with your completely unrelated conclusion bridging the gap between WW2 civilians subsisting on a marginal diet of sweet potatoes and that the present Okinawans enjoying being some of the longest lived people is somehow due to a diet inclusive of sweet potatoes.. This is not accurate information. The Okinawans eat more pork, insisting on the fattier rib ends several times per week. In fact, the Okinawan diet boasts more pork consumption that than other Japanese prefectures. Additionally, the average Japanese eats at least 8 -12 ounces of fresh fish/seafood daily. Some raw, some cooked. Most dieticians would argue that the daily inclusion of high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish, add to their longevity. Finally, there are social factors that play into life extension, unrelated to diet, that are beautifully found in the Okinawan social network. Elders (and the aging process in general) are respected for wisdom, and are an integral part of the fabric of their villages. They are not case aside, not forced to look younger than their years, and are oftentimes included in the extended family home caring for younger grandchildren and even great grandchildren. This sense of purpose and not living their twilight years shuffled off into nursing homes adds to their sense of fulfillment.

  13. Cathy says:

    What about cooked oats? They feel important to me.

  14. Lori Z. says:

    Wanted to suggest “Raw Strong” for the title, based on something you wrote & I read recently. Very anxious for your new book as the timing is perfect for me!! Your writings continue to be my go to source for trusted information 🙂

  15. I usually am too busy to post comments but this is such an excellent article that I have made an exception. Very informative. Very interesting to hear your views on rice. In Thailand there is a variety called something like kow kraw which is largely but not entirely de-husked so it give some of the mineral / fiber benefits of the husk but tastes and cooks like white rice. Really sensible, can’t understand why it is not available in the west!

    Anyway, thanks – great article.

  16. Jason says:

    Other than quinoa and certain steamed vegetables, the items you mentioned comprise the cooked staples in my diet. Great post Fred. Thanks!

  17. G says:

    Fred, you had mentioned in a recent post that you thought oatmeal was a healthy cooked food as well. Is that still the case?

  18. Debra says:

    Great article. Really like the info on cooked foods. Looking forward to the book.

  19. Edtih Unger says:

    I just purchased an electric steamer and am looking forward to steming sweet potatoes along with some other vegatables like asparagus,brussel sprouts and some cruciferous vegtables and squash . I recentlly have added to my daily raw salad a dressing that I make with blended pinto beans and lentils it taste so creamy . I use the recipe for hummous but changed the beans and left out the tahina which has a lot of fat. I had been 100% raw but got tremendous cravings for beans so I started adding them in.

  20. Petra says:

    Great post! I have one question though – You cook your black beans with one peeled potato? Does it have something to do with its alkaline benefit or what? You got me curious! And does it apply to cooking all beans in that case?

  21. Val Baxter says:

    Cooked mushrooms??? I always slice them finely and put them on top of salads. How would you advise cooking them?

  22. Edtih Unger says:

    Adding a small potatoe to the cooking of beans makes the cooking time a little shorter because it softens the beans and absorbs some of the gas from the beans

  23. Dawn says:

    Hi Fred, loved the article. You give sound and non-judgemental advice which is great. Its good to know what to use to add a little ‘comfort’ to a high raw diet, especially in winter in the north of England!
    And you set a good example as you always look so healthy.

    Thanks Dawn

  24. Malu says:

    Frederic! You always surprise me 🙂 And i love that! Thank you again,, and again and again.
    I’m in the same path that you are, after 4 years in a 100% raw food diet, i’m now implementing some cooked foods once in while, and it’s very good for me doing that.
    I’m from Brazil, and here we have a cultural food called Inhame, and it is a starch root, but it’s soooo goood! and it is so powerful as a food. Every indigenous people eat this root. And since I started to implement some cooked foos in my diet, Inhame it’s always a good choice. If you come to Brazil again, you need to try this one! 😉

  25. Louise says:

    Thank you for your post. Everything you recommend has been what my body has been telling me over the past years of my ‘raw journey’, though I do not always listen. Yes, love fruit, and believe it should be the staple of my diet (combined well). No, do not handle fat well, and almost never feel good eating gourmet dishes. Yes, my non-raw cravings would usually involve the above mentioned foods (especially when pregnant).

    Just want to comment on a few of the points:
    1) Sweet potato: we are fortunate here in Australia that sweet potato can grow almost like a weed. A tip: the leaves are very delicious too.

    3) Beans: Just wondering about your reasons for not soaking the beans first? I have read a lot about the benefits of sprouting in the excellent book on sprouts by Isabell Shipard, who has collected much research on the medicinal benefits of sprouts (see https://herbsarespecial.com.au/about-isabells-sprout-book.html). Many people find sprouted chickpeas, lentils and beans hard to digest, but steaming them or cooking them shortly makes them delicious and easy to digest, while still retaining the benefits of sprouting them first. That way sprouted lentils can be used in a sauce, or sprouted chickpeas can be cooked in minutes to make yummy warm hummus.

    6) Rice: I do not feel well after eating brown rice, even though it is supposedly the ‘healthiest’, it also feels very heavy in the stomach. A friend of mine who is an ayurvedic practitioner told me that they view brown rice as very difficult to digest, while basmati rice is supposedly superior because it is easy to digest, is balancing, and very high in ‘prana’ or life force.

    My two cents. Thanks again for confirming my intuitions, and giving inspiration to stay on a high raw, low fat diet that is truly nourishing and satisfying, without guilt about preferring steamed sprouted chickpeas to raw ones!

  26. Louise says:

    I also though about brassicas as a separate category of vegetable that is very healthy, but often hard to digest raw. I love broccoli, but no matter how I try to make it raw, it just doesn’t agree with me, whereas steamed it seems to be fine… Others agree?

  27. Ted says:

    Strange things happen to diet when you move to cold regions, live in a city, get too much into electric land and socializing in the mainstream. In the end all compromises catch up with us. These are all personal choices we make however and that’s cool. Who cares what another eats? Lets just not promote our own way of doing things at every twist and turn as ‘the ultimate diet’. If I was going to shout the ‘ultimate’ from the rooftops I’d pick pawpaw, mango, banana & young coconuts, all fresh from the garden grown with love and my own poop. ‘THE ULTIMATE’ baby!

  28. shelley says:

    Thanks so much for this story. I have been raw about a year but more like “mostly” raw. I never had health issues or needed to lose weight so I stumbled upon raw b/c of its promises of better skin and looks. I struggled to maintain my weight and ate lots of raw fats to gain back the 10 lbs I lost. But after reading 80/10/10…I recently started down that path…and while everything he wrote made so much sense, I realized it was even more restrictive and I had cut out almost all the fat, the sprouted beans, the seaweed etc., etc.. Honestly its been up and down trying to stay raw everyday…get enough calories and feel satiated even eating tons of bananas a day. My mood has been great doing 80/10/10 but realistically I couldn’t stay raw on it long term. I always wanted to add things like sweet potatoes and rice or quinoa but thought it would contaminate or pollute the effects of being “raw”. Not being satiated, I tended to slip with junk or cooked food that my family eats. I never crave anything but if I’m very Hungry and don’t have raw accessible or can’t bear another banana or apple etc, and Ive already eaten my fat allotment for the day…I start eating crackers, cheese, potato chips, Chinese food…my willpower just breaks. I always go back on raw the next day but being able to eat sweet potatoes (very hearty and filling) and go back to beans…would be a fantastic way to stay on this lifestyle and stay on course. Adding some of these cooked food would seem gourmet at this point….like going out to dinner…its been so long! However, will eating these cooked foods in moderation stop the “de-aging/youth-ing aspect and great skin” that supposedly “being 100% raw” claims to do? I hate to admit it…but that is why I do it…the greatly relaxed and calm state of mind was a surprising benefit…and I wouldn’t want to lose that either. Anybody who knows the answer….I would really appreciate it!!!!

  29. Elizabeth says:

    Awesome! As a high raw foodist…love what you have shared!!

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