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.
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.
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!
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?