Dr. Andrew Weil has specialized in the study of plants for their nutritional and healing properties, for over three decades.
Dr. Weil is in favor of vegetarian diets as long as they include healthy food. His view on all-raw-foods diets is less favorable. While some foods are more nutritious raw, some others are more beneficial after they've been cooked. And some foods may contain toxins that need to be broken down by the cooking process.
There’s a lot of epidemiological evidence that vegetarian diets are very healthy, that vegetarians in general have lower rates of chronic disease, good longevity but there’s vegetarian diets and vegetarian diets.
I meet vegetarians who eat mostly macaroni and cheese three times a day – that’s not a healthy diet.
And raw diets for me are problematic. The people who argue for raw diets say that the enzymes in foods are destroyed by cooking and that these are vital to good health.
That’s nonsense. Dropping enzymes into stomach acid is at least as violent transformation as cooking and enzymes are proteins, they are digested like protein molecules in the stomach. They really serve no role in human nutrition.
Also some micronutrients, especially the carotenoid pigments, things like beta carotene, lutein which is protective of eye health, lycopene which is very protective against cancer found in tomatoes for example. These are much more available from cooked foods than from raw foods.
And finally there are many natural toxins in vegetables which we don’t even think about that are easily broken down by cooking.
So I think those are the main arguments against an all-raw-foods diet. I think an optimum diet should include a mix of raw and cooked foods.
About Dr. Weil, M.D.:
Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D., was born in Philadelphia in 1942, received an A.B. degree in biology (botany) from Harvard in 1964 and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1968. After completing a medical internship at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco, he worked a year with the National Institute of Mental Health before writing his first book, The Natural Mind.