The Heat is On: Raw vs. Cooked Foods

cooked food“With the proper diet, no doctor is necessary. With the improper diet, no doctor can help.”

~ Gabriel Cousens, author of Conscious Eating

Some “raw foodies” may seem extreme and obsessive, but there’s a lot to be said for increasing the amount of raw food in your diet. As naturopath Dr. Humbart Santillo says, “A human being is not maintained by food intake alone, but rather by what is digested.”

Raw Vs. Cooked Foods

Contrary to popular belief, cooked foods are harder to digest than raw.


Alissa Cohen, author of Living on Live Food, says that cooking food over 112 degrees destroys vital enzyme content. Nancy Lee Bentley, co-author of Dr. Mercola’s  Total Health Program, says that newer research suggests enzymes can become de-stabilized at temperatures as low as 72 degrees.

Naturopath Dr. Humbart Santillo explains that enzymes are used to break down food to smaller and more operable nutritional units. The pancreas and other cells produce enzymes within the body (endogenous enzymes), and raw foods are the source of exogenous enzymes, those found outside the body.

“The more one gets of the exogenous enzymes,” says Santillo, “the less will have to be borrowed [from the body.] One can live many years on a cooked food diet, but eventually this will cause cellular enzyme exhaustion, which lays the foundation for a weak immune system and ultimately—disease.”

University of California researchers measured the digestion of bread that had been cooked three ways: mildly, normally and over-baked. The longer the bread was cooked; the longer it stayed in the stomach. The over-baked bread caused an immune response in the bloodstream: it was treated as a foreign invader.

Scientist Francis Pottenger discovered that every food has a heat labile point. A heat labile point is the temperature at which the chemical configuration of food changes. Nancy Appleton, author of Suicide by Sugar, says we digest food in certain chemical configurations. Cooking styles that heat food to high temperatures create chemical configurations that the body is unfamiliar with and doesn’t have the enzymes to digest easily.

The Digestive Tract

As food sits in the digestive tract; it begins to ferment. Proteins putrefy and fats go rancid, irritating the mucosal lining and causing inflammation. The irritated cells of the digestive lining spread, allowing undigested and partially digested foods to pass through. This is leaky gut syndrome, which is linked to many allergic, autoimmune and digestive conditions.

In an article on Dr. Mercola’s website, “Raw Food–One of Your Keys to Outstanding Health,” Wes Peterson writes about some of the research that has been done concerning raw versus cooked food.

The first doctor to test and document the effects of cooked versus raw food on the immune system was Dr. Paul Kouchakoff of Switzerland. In the 1930’s, Kouchakoff found that food that was cooked until it was well done initiated a white blood cell rise called “digestive leukocytosis.

Digestive leukocytosis resembles a stress response to infection or trauma. This increase in white blood cells had been observed by others but was thought to be a normal reaction to eating. At The Institute of Chemical Chemistry, Kouchakoff and others found that unaltered food (food that was raw or heated at very low temperatures) did not cause this immune reaction. They found that only food heated at very high temperatures or food that was processed and refined caused this rise in white blood cells.

They renamed the phenomenon “pathological leukocytosis” because they deemed it abnormal–or a response to abnormal food. The strongest food triggers of this reaction, heated or not, were processed and refined foods such as pasteurized and homogenized milk and margarine, and refined chocolate, sugar, candy, white flour and table salt.

Nancy Appleton reports that the average cancer risk due to amine exposure in cooked foods rises from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 50 in people who regularly eat large amounts of well-done and flame-broiled conventional meats.

Leif Busk, of the Swedish National Food Administration, says that overcooked starchy foods cause the formation of cancer-causing acrylamide. Acrylamide, says Appleton, forms not only in baked and fried starches but in meats cooked at high temperatures. As many as 20 identified cancer-causing heterocyclic amines (HCAs) have been found in such meats.

Published research has found a connection between well-done meats and stomach cancer and increased risk of breast, colorectal and pancreatic cancer with barbequed, fried and well-done meats.

Acidity & Alkalinity

Besides enzymes, the second most important benefit of raw foods is their effect on the acid/alkaline balance in our bodies, says Alissa Cohen.

Dr. Robert Young, author of The pH Miracle, describes “The New Biology.” Disease, Young says, is not caused by external sources such as bacteria. Disease occurs within the body when acidity undermines the immune system. When our bodies are at the proper acid/alkaline balance, we can combat and defeat any invader, correct any imbalance, roll with all the punches. Acidosis, due to environmental pollutants and stress, processed and refined foods, lack of biogenic or “life-giving” foods and mineral-deficient water, contributes to disease and disorder within the body.

The major cause of acidity is diet. Cooked foods create acidity in the body. Raw foods neutralize acid and are loaded with antioxidants.

Cooking does degrade some nutrients but it also makes others more digestible. Lightly cooking food at temperatures less than 100 degrees, steaming, juicing, sprouting and using slow cookers are ways to gently cook food.


Dr. Joseph Mercola (2002)

Alissa Cohen (2009)

Dr. Joseph Mercola (2004)

Dr. Robert O. Young (2007)

Dr. Joseph Mercola (2002)

From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut only affects the digestive system, but in reality it can affect more. Because Leaky Gut is so common, and such an enigma, I’m offering a free webinar on all things leaky gut. Click here to learn more about the webinar.

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