Raw Food Diet – What You Need to Know
Weight loss, increased energy, clear skin and improved overall health – these are just some of the many benefits that proponents of a Raw Foods Diet claim.
So what is a Raw Foods or Living Foods diet? The diet consists of unprocessed, uncooked, whole, organic fruits, vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds and herbs.
Your key kitchen tools to uncook your food are a food processor or blender and a food dehydrator.
Some raw foods recipes require lots of preparation while some require little or none such as smoothies and salads. Vegan baked goods can be made in a dehydrator, while dips, sauces, pates, creamy desserts, even cheeses can be made from nuts and seed butters and other blended whole foods like coconut and avocados. Carob and cacao powder make delectable raw chocolate desserts, warming spices like garlic, ginger and chile peppers add natural heat and raw fermented foods like miso paste and coconut kefir can support digestion and boost immunity.
There are many variations of the diet that also include raw unpasteurized dairy products, raw fish and even certain kinds of raw meat. Typically though, about 75% or more of the food you eat is plant based and not heated above 115 degrees. The central claim by raw food advocates is that cooking destroys vital nutrients in food and therefore proper nutrition. Left intact, the powerful plant phytonutrients can then be used by the body to replenish itself and support natural healing.
Indeed, most foods are more nutritious when raw. Heat can destroy many nutrients including many water-soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids and anti-oxidants. Even the benefits of dietary fiber can be reduced by cooking. However, to be clear, the plant enzymes that raw food advocates wish to preserve are largely destroyed anyway by the hydrochloric acid in our stomach during digestion. Raw foods do avoid some of the potential harms of cooking. Cooking meat can lead to charring which creates carcinogenic compounds known as heterocyclic amines. Cooking methods like frying, baking or broiling of certain carbohydrates like potatoes (i.e. French Fries) or grains generates acrylamide, another potential carcinogen.
Is raw always better though?
It’s clear that Americans eat way too much packaged, processed cooked food and not enough fresh, nutrient dense, fiber rich fruits and vegetables. So the Living Foods diet is absolutely grounded on some key solid principles of whole foods nutrition. Bottom line, an emphasis on eating more unprocessed plant food – raw or cooked is irrefutably good.
There are some limitations though. Raw foods advocates ignore the fact that some foods are actually more nutritious when cooked such as tomatoes, whose fat-soluble anti-oxidant lycopene becomes more bio-available when heated in oil. Raw foods diets can also exclude some wonderful health supportive cooked foods such as beans, lentils, quinoa and eggs. Those individuals with nut allergies may also find a raw foods diet challenging because nuts are relied on as a staple source of healthy protein and fat. Raw vegan diets can also lead to a vitamin b12 deficiency so supplementation is often recommended.
Finally, like all dietary systems – it absolutely always on depends on the ever changing needs of the individual body.
As I advise my health coaching clients, there are as many different nutritional systems as there are cultures on the planet and each one has some golden nuggets of wisdom that will work for you. Be open and curious to finding those truths and see how they apply to your needs. A raw foods diet might be the best one depending on your health issue at the time. Many people with chronic illness, autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue or weight struggles are drawn to the healing power of eating more raw organic plant food. Take note though that following a strict raw foods diet indefinitely may not be the most sustainable or even most health supportive one for you. For some too many raw fruits and vegetables can actually exacerbate certain digestive conditions. Others find their health improved with the addition of high quality animal protein in their food. Still others find that organic whole sprouted grains plays a supportive role in their food.
In short, we should embrace the message of the raw food diet to eat more fresh vegetables, fruit, sprouts, nuts and seeds and less processed junk. Americans would unequivocally be healthier if we all subscribed to it to some degree.
Delicious Green Smoothie
- 4 ice cubes (eliminate if using frozen fruit)
- 2-3 medium strawberries (fresh or frozen)
- 3 cups baby spinach (“Earthbound Organic”)
- 1 granny smith apple, chopped
- ¼ cup celery, chopped
- ¼ cup cucumber, chopped
- 1 small banana
- 2 cups water (more or less to desired consistency)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed