Peachy Reasons To Cook
Why did our ancients invent fire and start cooking?
Here are three old and solid prongs in the hot debate about raw foods and cooking:
- Food Security
- Enhanced Nutritional Value
- Food Safety
1. Cooking for Food Security
Storing food makes life comfortable and dependable. It is really handy to be able to store your surplus foods, send some to a distant relative, trade some or have the weekend off from farming and mend some clothes. The farming of grains changed humanity and shaped the landscape. Suddenly, communities had long-term food storage of grains, tubers and dried pulses. From this food revolution shaped our culture. Towns were founded, cities grew and supplies for adventures and wars were fueled.
The traditional methods of preserving food were:
- Hilling (burying tubers in mounds)
- Drying and milling into a flour
- Simple Cooking
Cooking foods to a temperature of 100°C for a minimum of 5 minutes will kill many food-borne disease microorganisms (ie. salmonella, e coli, campylobacter, listeria). This enables us to keep foods for longer because they do not decay as quickly.
2. Cooking for Enhanced Nutrition
The nutritional value of foods are often enhanced by cooking.
- Heat makes many foods tastier (the sugars are released, flavours enhanced, and the fibers become more digestible.)
- Many vegetable fibers are naturally indigestible and heating and pounding helps to make them suited to human consumption.
- The beneficial phytochemicals produced by plants such as peas and tomatoes are more readily available when cooked (but not to be cooked in carbon steel pans).
- Most plant toxins are destroyed. Early varieties of plants such as beans originally contained lectin phytohaemagglutinin which is destroyed by cooking and fermenting.
- Some cooking methods are more nutritious than others. Slow and sealed cooking locks in the nutrients.
- Cooking can also destroy nutrients especially in oils and fats, making them harmful.
Not all Apples are Apples – What?
Identical apples of the same variety will rarely have the same nutritional value. Their richness of nutrients depends on the quality of the soil that the apple tree grows in.
As for nutritional value of meats, the animal’s exercise, stress levels and diet will affect the type fats and fibers in the meat. (Freely ranging animals have more nutrients and better quality fats. “Wild-animal fats are different from both farm-animal fats and processed fats, says Dewailly. Farm animals, cooped up and stuffed with agricultural grains (carbohydrates) typically have lots of solid, highly saturated fat.”
3. Cooking for Food Safety
Many bacteria, viruses, some poisons and harmful micro-organisms lurk in our foods. This includes liver fluke (which can be transmitted by snails). Most of these threats can be killed by cooking. But not all.
Bacteria [ie. Salmonella] usually dies when cooked. Some by-products (ie. the botulinum toxin) can be destroyed by heat but other toxins from moulds, micro-organisms, viruses or bacterial growth can still make us sick.
Good health is not so much about which foods are best to eat, or how to prepare them or what hazards to avoid. The ‘proof is in the pudding’ as long as it is a healthy mix of nutrients.