The Raw Diet
There are no rules set in stone about what you can and can’t eat on a raw foods diet as long as the food is raw. This means most of what you eat will be raw fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, dried legumes, grains, extra-virgin olive oil, raw coconut oil, and herbal teas. This way of eating resembles a vegan or vegetarian diet, but some raw foodists choose to also eat raw eggs, fish, and meat and unpasteurized dairy—though these foods come with potential health risks.
While cooking food is off limits, you can warm food to a maximum of 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Many staple foods are sold raw, but others can be prepared using food processors, blenders, and dehydrators.
The Raw Theory
Proponents of the diet, known as “raw foodists,” claim that cooking food kills the immune-boosting nutrients and enzymes that keep you healthy. They believe eating cooked meats increases levels of ammonia and uric acid in the body, turning protein into substances seen by the immune system as foreign invaders to be filtered by the kidneys leading to kidney stones and kidney failure.
Additionally, they believe fermentation occurs during the digestion of cooked grains, producing gas, acetic acid, and alcohol that harm cells.
With little scientific evidence to back their assertions, raw foodists claim raw foods help relieve headaches and allergies, lessen the symptoms of arthritis and diabetes, and improve memory and immunity.
The Raw Results
There’s no way around the fact that most raw foods are good for you. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And cooking does reduce a certain percentage of the water-soluble vitamins found in food. However, at the same time, cooking foods increases other nutrients like lycopene and beta-carotene and kills off harmful bacteria.
On such a diet you must be careful to get your recommended daily amounts of protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B-12, and vitamin D (nutrients high in animal products). As a result, a daily supplement may be needed to make up for any gaps in nutrition.
On the plus side, the raw foods diet has been shown to aid in weight loss since most raw foods are low in fat, calories, and sodium and high in fiber. By eating less sodium, saturated fats, and cholesterol, the raw foods diet offers substantial benefits for your heart. And any amount of weight loss helps control diabetic symptoms.
The Raw Effort
Any diet that strictly restricts whole food groups and requires special food preparation scores high on the level of difficulty. Sticking to a diet like the raw foods diet takes dedication and hard work. Making meals can be time-consuming and eating out may be a thing of the past. There are no membership fees or prepackaged foods to buy, but organic foods bought at specialty grocery stores aren’t cheap and food preparation equipment like blenders and dehydrators can add up.
Thinking of going raw? Going 100 percent raw overnight is virtually impossible if you’re not used to this way of eating. The best way to adopt a raw foods diet is to gradually decrease the amount of processed, cooked food you eat and replace it with raw options. This gives your taste buds and eating habits time to adjust to a new way of eating. It also lets you determine whether you can go raw or enjoy your baked goods a little too much.
Whether or not you decide to try a raw foods diet, you can always benefit from eating more fruits and vegetables and eating fewer refined carbs and processed junk. So add raw to your life—whether a little or a lot—and enjoy the benefits!