A lot of your favourite foods (including fruits and vegetables) can be eaten raw without any kind of preparation whatsoever. However, there are certain foods that should always be cooked before consumption, as you run the risk of developing serious illness if you don’t. Furthermore, cooking certain foods can also help to release (and ultimately help the body absorb) more of their disease-fighting nutrients.
Meat and poultry: The biggest problem people have when it comes to food poisoning is often the result of undercooked meat and/or poultry. For example, chicken or beef. They’re also atop the list of foods that are often recalled due to things like salmonella. When preparing raw meat or poultry, always make sure you’re keeping it away from foods that have already been cooked or are awaiting to be cooked – and always wash down things like cutting boards and countertops before and after. Once in the oven (or on the BBQ), you need to make sure your meat and/or poultry is fully cooked through before serving. The same goes for that holiday ham or turkey.
Asparagus: This is a vegetable that comes loaded with nutrients, including vitamins A, C, E, and K. It also contains chromium, which is great if you’re someone who is watching their blood sugar, as it enhances insulin’s ability to transport glucose from your bloodstream and into your cells. It’s also rich in the detoxifying compound known as glutathione, which helps fight cancer, and is packed with antioxidants that can slow down the aging process, boost the brain, and even reduce inflammation. While eating raw asparagus won’t cause you harm in any way, it’s a vegetable that provides better nutritional value when cooked. Some great ways to cook asparagus is through steaming, boiling, or even grilling.
Mushrooms: These are another vegetable that can be consumed raw, though you’ll get more of their benefits (potassium, for example) if you cook them – whether you sauté, grill, roast, or add them to some of your favourite homemade dishes, such as pasta, or as a topping on pizza.
Potato: Unlike the aforementioned vegetables, potatoes are a vegetable that should absolutely not be eaten raw. Potatoes are starchy, and when they’re consumed raw can cause significant digestive discomfort. Furthermore, raw potatoes also contain anti-nutrients which can interfere with the absorption of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals, as well as contain other toxins. So always make sure you cook potato before eating it!
Brussels sprouts: A holiday favourite (especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas), Brussels sprouts can be difficult to digest when consumed raw, causing things like gas and bloating, so you’re better off to cook this tiny green vegetable before eating it. The best way to cook Brussels sprouts is by boiling them, although they can also be roasted in the oven. For added flavour, toss them in some olive oil, salt, or parmesan cheese.
Spinach: It’s not uncommon to consume raw spinach, especially when eating a salad. However, cooked spinach has a much higher nutritional value than it does when consumed raw. For example, when cooked, it has more iron, calcium, and magnesium. Spinach can also be easily incorporated into some of your favourite meals, such as breakfast omelettes, and can even be used as a topping on pizza.
Cookie dough: You might remember eating scoops of raw cookie dough as a kid, and as delicious as it may have tasted, there are actually some serious risks associated with consuming this raw batter. Not only does cookie dough contain raw eggs, but it also contains uncooked flour – and both have the potential of making you quite ill. Raw eggs and uncooked flour can harbour things like salmonella, as well as E. coli, which can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fever. You can become so severely ill as a result of eating raw cookie dough that you may even need to be hospitalized.
If you are elderly, have an auto-immune disorder, or are pregnant, you’re also at an increased risk of developing food-borne illness. If you fall under any of these categories or know someone who does, click here for more information on the foods that are of most concern.