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Why We Cook: Cooking Destroys Antinutrients

Posted by Phoenix Woman on October 26, 2013

Something to show to the next raw-food enthusiast you encounter:

Antinutrients are found at some level in almost all foods for a variety of reasons. However, their levels are reduced in modern crops, probably as an outcome of the process of domestication.[11] The possibility now exists to eliminate antinutrients entirely using genetic engineering; but, since these compounds may also have beneficial effects, such genetic modifications could make the foods more nutritious but not improve people’s health.[12]

Many traditional methods of food preparation such as fermentation, cooking, and malting increase the nutritive quality of plant foods through reducing certain antinutrients such as phytic acid, polyphenols, and oxalic acid.[13] Such processing methods are widely used in societies where cereals and legumes form a major part of the diet.[14][15] An important example of such processing is the fermentation of cassava to produce cassava flour: this fermentation reduces the levels of both toxins and antinutrients in the tuber.[16]

One Response to “Why We Cook: Cooking Destroys Antinutrients”

  1. Stormcrow said

    If you liked that, you’ll love this …

    Emphasis mine.

    From Chapter 3 of Nathan Wolfe’s The Viral Storm:

    Presumably, fire first provided warmth and security from predators and competitors. Yet it appears to have quickly become a profound way of altering food. Richard Wrangham, my mentor from Harvard, discusses cooking and its consequences in depth in his well-researched book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. Among other things, he analyzes in detail cooking’s origins.

    When our ancestors began to cook extensively, in addition to the advantages that cooking offered them by making food more manageable and palatable, they also benefited from its remarkable ability to kill microbes. While some microbes can survive at incredible temperatures (such as the hot spring microbial hyperthermophiles that grow and reproduce at temperatures above the boiling point of water), the vast majority of microbes that make their living off of animals cannot survive the temperatures associated with cooking. As microbes are heated during cooking, their normally solid, densely packed proteins are made to unfold and open, allowing digestive enzymes quick and easy access to destroy any capacity to function. As with the population bottlenecks that our ancestors swung through, the cooking that became their standard way of life served to again diminish their uptake of new microbes, helping limit their microbial diversity.

    The earliest solid evidence that humans controlled fire comes from archaeological finds in northern Israel where burned stone flakes dating back almost eight hundred thousand years were found near fire pits. This is almost certainly an underestimate. African sites dating to over a million years ago contain burned bones that could be the remains of cooking, yet the lack of archaeological evidence makes these finds more ambiguous. In Wrangham’s analysis, the evidence of cooking goes back much further. By examining the remains of our ancient ancestors, paleontologists have found physiological clues indicating that they consumed cooked food. For example Homo erectus, a human ancestor from 1.8 million years ago, had exactly the larger bodies and smaller digestive tracks and jaws to imply that they consumed higher-energy diets that were easy to chew and easy to digest—in other words, foods that had been cooked.

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