Gut health: better to eat raw or cooked foods?

Gut health: better to eat raw or cooked foods?

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Cooking or eating raw vegetables: A study suggests that cooking is usually the better option for the intestines

Many people swear by eating raw food. However, a new study shows that it can make sense not to eat vegetables raw but cooked. Because cooking has a health impact on our intestinal flora.

Cooking vegetables strengthens microbial health

Cooking food and then eating it changes the microbiome, which helps optimize our microbial health.

So it can make sense to cook vegetables instead of eating raw food. In the current study by the University of California San Francisco and the internationally recognized Harvard University, it has now been found that cooking food has a major impact on our microbiome. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Nature Microbiology".

Improved health through cooking food?

Previous studies have shown that many facets of human health - from chronic inflammation to weight gain - are heavily affected by the microbes, also known as the microbiome. The results of the current study make it clear that cooking food fundamentally changes the microbiomes of mice and humans. This is important for optimizing our microbial health and for understanding how cooking has influenced the development of our microbiomes in the course of development.

Cooking changes bioactive compounds

The current study examined how different types of diet affect the microbiome. "We were surprised that nobody had examined the fundamental question of how cooking itself changes the composition of the microbial ecosystems in our intestines," said study author Professor Peter Turnbaugh of the University of California San Francisco in a press release.

The researchers examined the effects of cooking on the microbiomes of mice by feeding groups of animals with raw meat, cooked meat, raw sweet potatoes, or cooked sweet potatoes - because previous data had already shown that cooking contained the nutrients and other bioactive compounds in meat and Bulbs changed.

Changes from cooking sweet potatoes were significant

To the surprise of the research group, the consumption of raw meat compared to the consumption of cooked meat had no discernible influence on the intestinal microbes of the animals. In contrast, raw and cooked sweet potatoes changed the composition of the microbiome of the animals, the patterns of the gene activity of the microbes and the biologically important metabolic products they produced very differently.

To check the results, the researchers fed the mice with a selection of raw and cooked sweet potatoes, potatoes, corn, peas, carrots, and beets. The group attributed the observed microbial changes to two key factors. Cooked food allows the host to absorb more calories in the small intestine. However, this leaves fewer calories for microbes further down in the intestine. Also, many raw foods contain potent antimicrobial compounds, which certain quality The researchers seem to directly harm microbes, the researchers report.

Paradoxical effects have been identified

The differences are not only due to the changing carbohydrate metabolism, they can also be driven by the substances in plants.

The researchers performed a detailed analysis of the chemical changes caused by cooking in each plant. This led to a list of compounds that could possibly explain how diet affected the microbiomes of the animals. The team found in the study that raw food resulted in weight loss in the mice. So they examined whether this was due to the changes in their microbes. The changed microbiomes were transplanted into other mice that consumed a regular diet. As a result, these animals gained fat. The research group is now further investigating this apparently paradoxical finding.

Human microbiomes have also been significantly changed

In order to finally understand whether similar changes in the microbiome can be triggered in humans, the research group carried out an experiment on a small group of participants. They ate comparable menus from cooked or raw food.

Both forms of diet were taken in random order for three days, then the stool samples of the participants were examined to analyze the microbiomes. It turned out that the different forms of nutrition significantly changed the participants' microbiomes. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Rachel N. Carmody, Jordan E. Bisanz, Benjamin P. Bowen, Corinne F. Maurice, Svetlana Lyalina et al .: Cooking shapes the structure and function of the gut microbiome, in Nature Microbiology (query: 08.12.2019) ,, Nature Microbiology

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