Thursday, December 4, 2008

MIcronutrients and Improved Function in MS

Progressive multiple sclerosis and micronutrients – is raw food superior to cooked food?

I am often asked whether raw food is superior to cooked food for micronutrient availability for patients with MS. The basic guide I provide is that food taken directly from the plant is the very best for you. If you cook food, the lower temper in steaming or a very low (180 degree) roast is the next best. The other key item is to eat any fluid or juice from the cooking (which is where all the water soluble nutrients have gone.

Micronutrients are critical for brain health. Unfortunately the average western diet is deficient in most vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and amino acids which have recommended daily allowances. The reason for this is the reliance on cheap sources of calories in grains which have most often had the germ and husk of the grain removed.
Very few vegetables are consumed. The animals are increasingly raised in high density farm factories with minimal exposure to green grass or sunshine. The consequence is that the meat has minimal omega 3 fatty acid, vitamin and mineral content.

Are nutrients lost with cooking? That depends on high the cooking temperature and how long. Immediately fresh and still raw when you eat the food means that cooking has not leached any of the micronutrients out of it. But some of the micronutrients may not be available to you because our bodies can’t digest all of the cell walls in plants. If you cook below the boiling point and drink all the juice – the food is generally more digestible and you have not lost much of the micronutrients. However – some of the compounds that are very helpful to us will gradually be lost with prolonged cooking. Cooking above the boiling point of water, particularly frying tends to oxidize many of the compounds in food. When that occurs many of the anti-oxidants in food have become oxidized – and therefore their anti-oxidant benefit to us is gone.

Bottom line – Raw retains the nutrients in the food. Cooking gently makes the nutrients more available because the food has been partially digested by cooking. Frying oxidizes many of the helpful compounds. Prolonged high temperatures cooking likewise can breakdown micronutrients. My advice is to increase your micronutrients through more vegetables and fruits. Eat them raw or cooked according to your personal preference. But if you cook, always drink the juice. Never throw it away.

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