Cooking with Poop
Kanzi the bonobo lighting a fire and cooking a meal
RC_COW: Cooking food just makes things easier to digest. Meaning your body can absorb more nutrients from them.
stuthulhu: It depends on the food. It’s not necessarily the case that cooked food is more nutritious. It might have the same nutrition, or less, or more. If it has more, it is likely due to the cooking process altering or breaking down structures that are hard for you to digest, making it so that you digest more than you would from the uncooked food (i.e. instead of breaking down in your gi tract, it passes out intact as poop).
Jozer99: Living things run on sugar. When you digest food, you eventually break it down into sugar which feeds your cells. Unless you are eating raw sugar, your body has to convert your food into sugar so your cells can use it.
Luckily, the plants and animals we eat also run on sugar. However, the sugar in plants and animals is usually stored not as sugar but as a different chemical which is more stable and easy to store (like how you can stack plastic cups so that they take up less room). Animals store sugar as fat, and plants store it as starch or celulose.
When you eat plants or animals, you are mainly eating the storage chemicals which need to be broken down into sugar so your body can use it. This takes extra work and energy. This means you have to use energy to extract energy from food. In some cases, it takes more energy to break down (digest) food than you get out of it. For instance, if you ate only cucumbers or lettuce, you would starve to death, because these foods are hard to digest and you actually use more energy than you gain.
Cooking for helps to break down the complex molecules in the food so that they are easier to digest. This means you can get more energy eating the food, because you use less energy to digest it.
Cooking food was important to humans developing as an intelligent species, because our big brains require so much energy. We couldn’t get enough nutrients to support our big brains if we just ate uncooked leaves or raw meat.
Note this is the ELI5 answer, there is also a lot of other stuff going on regarding protiens and and other nutrients that I do not mention.
zwakery: Well obviously if you cook something it will degrade in some sense. For the most part cooking a vegetable for example does NOT make it more nutritious. In fact the longer you cook vegetables the worse off you’ll be in a health sense. Though you can prep vegetables and food differently to make the most of the “healthy compounds” you desire in a food, but then it will come at a cost of degrading other aspects/nutrients of that particular food.
equus007: It’s not. It is in fact considerably less nutritious in a lot of cases but also vastly more safe to eat. When you cook something you burn off a lot of good stuff and heat will alter some as well but it also kills parasites and bacteria.
jentintin: A lack of harmful bacteria and other pathogens.