CLEARWATER, Fla. - Heat and eat or pop in your mouth, straight from the source? The debate over the health benefits of eating raw foods is heating up.
For some foodies, nutrition the way nature intended it -- unprocessed, unpasteurized, uncooked and not genetically engineered -- is the only way to go.
"It's the most beautiful food that also has superior taste. Not just superior nutrition, but superior taste," said Dara Prentice, a raw food advocate.
Raw food proponents say eating a diet composed of 75 to 100 percent of raw foods alleviates the risk of cardiovascular disease because some say most cooked foods are chemically altered during the process. Many also think heating food above 104 degrees can destroy enzymes in food.
Nadine Pazder, a registered dietician, isn't biting.
"In reality, because your stomach is so acidic and enzymes are essentially a protein compound, once those enzymes get to your stomach you're not going to get the benefits if there is any anyway, because it's going to get digested in these acids,"
Cooking foods cuts the risk of illness from dangerous bacteria like salmonella and E. Coli, Pazder said.
"Raw foods can be potentially dangerous for people who are immunocompromised," she said. "It can be dangerous for the elderly; it can be dangerous for pregnant women or very young children."
Raw food advocates say fewer calories are consumed eating this way, which could help curb America's obesity epidemic and is one of the biggest national health issues today. For both sides, it's food for thought.
Experts say those who are considering a raw foods diet should consider the risks from eating raw or undercooked meat, fish, milk or eggs.
Also, since very restrictive diets have been associated with growth problems, the American Dietetic Association says raw food plans may not be appropriate for infants and children.
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