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A growing number of people believe that raw food diets are good for their mental and physical health.
Now, personally, I’m not a huge believer in this – our teeth, stomachs and brains have evolved to expect a mixture of protein and vegetable matter, and to unlock the vitamins and nutrients in them requires at least some form of cooking.
But, say we go with it… why might it work?
Well, here’s a couple of papers from 1942 that – if my Nicotinic acid theory is correct – might go a long way towards explaining why it helps:
http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/reprint/25/3/275.pdf (The Nicotinic Acid Content of Common Fruits and Vegetables, as Prepared for Human Consumption; W.C. Russell, M.W. Taylor, J.F. Beuck, October 21 1942, The Journal of Nutrition)
http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/reprint/24/2/153.pdf (The Nicotinic Acid Content of Meat, W.J. Dann, P.J. Handler, April 16 1942, The Journal of Nutrition)
The first paper discusses how typical cooking methods cause nicotinic acid to be lost in the process when cooking fresh and canned fruits and vegetables. This can be – especially if you don’t use the cooking water elsewhere in your cooking – anywhere up to 41% of the amount of Vitamin B3 in the food – and we’re talking about typical portions of about 3.5oz here, which typically contain only about .5mg to begin with. (Although if you want a boost, go for peas and asparagus).
The second paper discusses how cooking meat affects the same thing; the result here is that while a lot of meats have more nicotinic acid in them than veggies, they typically lose over half of it during cooking. That, and the best sources for your are chicken breast, chicken liver and other kinds of liver. But, of course, you still lose up to 50% of the nicotinic acid in the food by cooking it. (Not that you’d actually want to eat raw meat, unless it’s carpacchio).
So does this explain the success of raw foods? Maybe in part. It’s only one vitamin; others would need to be studied first. My bet though, is on eating more chicken. And more peas.