What is a raw food diet?
The raw food diet is based on the belief by some alternative medicine practitioners that the most healthful food for the body is uncooked. Although most food is eaten raw, heating food is acceptable as long as the temperature stays below 104 to 118 degrees Fahrenheit (the cutoff temperature varies slightly among those in the raw food community).
According to proponents, enyzymes are the life force of a food, helping us to digest food and absorb nutrients.
Cooking denatures enzymes. If we overconsume cooked food, our bodies have to work harder by producing more enzymes. Over time, a lack of enzymes from food is said to promote digestive problems, nutrient deficiency, accelerated aging, and weight gain.
Cooking food may diminish its nutritional value. For example, sulforaphanes, the cancer-fighting compounds in broccoli, are reduced when broccoli is cooked. Certain vitamins, such as vitamin C and folate, are destroyed by heat. Other foods, however, become more healthful after cooking, because the fibrous portion is broken down. For example, cooked tomatoes contain three to four times more lycopene than raw tomatoes.
The Raw Food Diet Advantage
“Raw food diet,” literally means eating your food uncooked (or minimally processed). If you’re a frequent visitor to my site, you may know that I recommend eating at least 80 percent your food raw or close to raw. If your food comes with a label, it has likely undergone a manufacturing assembly line and some level of processing.
You may initially feel uneasy about eating raw food, thinking that they are crawling with pathogenic microbes. But consuming only wholesome organic foods, such as organic vegetables, raw organic dairy, and pastured meats, helps you to avoid the risk of contamination and disease. So pay close attention to the quality of the food you are buying.
Ideally, you will consume locally grown and unprocessed food. This supports local farmers and the economy. It also will avoid many of the dangers posed by mass produced and processed foods. Locally grown food eaten in its natural raw state contains valuable compounds, such as enzymes, that jumpstart a number of biochemical reactions in your body and also contain biophotons, which are small units of light that are stored in and utilized by all biological organisms, including humans. These light units control complex vital processes in your body. Naturally grown vegetables and sun-ripened fruits are abundant in light energy.
Unfortunately, when cooked or exposed to heat, even locally obtained produce loses all of its precious nutrients and is rendered as useless as any processed food sitting on a supermarket shelf.
What foods are included in the diet?
- Dried fruits
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Freshly made fruit and vegetable juices
- Milk from a young coconut
- Other organic or natural foods which have not been processed
- Purified water (not tap)
- Sun-dried fruits
Depending on the lifestyle, the following may also be included:
- Fish (sushi, sashimi)
- Milk and dairy products (non-pasteurized/non-homogenized)
But is it good for you?
Kerry Torrens, our nutritional therapist, gives her view on whether the health promises live up to the hype:
- Eating raw fruit and veg is a great way to achieve your five-a-day, and packs your diet with vitamins, minerals and fibre.
- While heating fruit and veg can cause the loss of some heat-sensitive nutrients, like vitamin C, other nutrients actually benefit from cooking. For example, cooking carrots and tomatoes makes it easier for our bodies to benefit from their protective antioxidants, including beta-carotene (which we convert to vitamin A), and lycopene.
- Tanya’s desserts are high in fat as ingredients like coconut, nuts and avocado are naturally rich in fat, which helps to achieve a creamy texture. Coconut is rich in saturated fat, although much of this is in the form of medium-chain triglycerides, which are believed to have health benefits. The cashews and avocado are rich in monounsaturated fats, which are heart-friendly.
- The challenge for anyone on a raw food diet is getting enough protein, vitamin B12 and iron, as these nutrients are typically found in foods most of us prefer to cook – meat, fish, eggs and grains. Pregnant women, the elderly and the very young, and anyone with a chronic illness, should check with their GP before going on a raw food diet.
- The following health benefits are highlighted by followers of a raw food diet:
- You will have more energy
- Your skin will have a much better appearance
- Your digestion will improve
- You will lose weight
- Your risk of developing heart and cardiovascular diseases will significantly drop
Raw Food Diet Takeaways
- A raw food diet is consider an “anti-diet” and more like a lifestyle that simply promotes eating more real foods in their natural state that’s about eating mostly or all unprocessed and uncooked foods so you get all the nutrients without the dangerous additives.
- Raw food diets supply more nutrients than vegan diets, because there are some nutrients and proteins you simply cannot get without consuming animal products. In addition, raw food diets sometimes include a few cooked foods.
- You can eat more raw foods in a balanced way by following the following steps: at each meal, plan to fill half your plate with fresh, non-starchy veggies and fruit; lightly cook food at temperatures less than 100 degrees, steam, juice, sprout and use slow cookers to gently cook the food you aren’t eating raw; replace bad fats with healthy fats; focus on having quality animal products in moderation; and replace all sugary snacks and refined grains.
- Fermented foods also play a key role in a raw food diet.