We’re not ones to advocate fanatical attention to calorie counts around here, but I found this article on how raw foods contain ‘less’ calories than cooked foods too interesting not to mention. Apparently, Harvard researchers have found that cooking food increases the amount of energy or calories the food provides to your body.
This is partly a matter of semantics—cooking food doesn’t just magically add more calories to it. “The starting energetic value of a food is based on the composition of that specific food, and that’s not going to change by cooking,” lead researcher Rachel Carmbody said.
But what the study—published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences—found is that the body uses more energy in digesting raw food than it does digesting cooked food, and that more of the energy available from raw food is lost to bacteria in our guts than with cooked food. This means, effectively, your body will hold on to less calories from food eaten in its raw form than from the same food that’s been cooked.
“What cooking alters is the proportion of the energy that our bodies absorbs versus what is lost to gut bacteria, and what is excreted by our bodies,” said Carmbody. “The cooking process allows food to be almost completely metabolized by the time it reaches the end of the small intestine. This means that the body has extracted nearly all of the available energy, leaving little for the bacteria.”
And the more energy that’s left for the bacteria, the fewer calories absorbed by the body.
The scientists also found that because pathogens are more prolific in raw food, your body expends more energy—and thus burns more calories—fighting off the pathogens in raw food. I’m not really sure if that’s a good or bad thing.
Regardless, it seems there might be more of a basis for the raw foods/weight loss connection than just the fact that raw foodists eat lots of whole fruits and vegetables, as some have suggested. [It could also be why my fellow Blisstree writer Deborah felt so hungry when she went on a temporary raw foods diet.]