Raw food diets can be another one of those contentious eating regimes, up there with vegan and paleo. Now I’m a fan of the paleo diet, but as with anything, I make it “my shade” so that it works for me and I can still feel the great benefits.
My friends often get confused when they see my cook book shelf – as despite being paleo, there are a lot of raw foods cookbooks on it. In fact the two are not mutually exclusive and I actually eat more raw foods and vegetables than I ever did before going paleo… but that’s a discussion for another time.
Now we are going to talk about some of the myths surrounding raw foods and raw food diets and it might start to become apparent as to why I include some raw food principles into my paleo lifestyle.
A raw food diet means that 75% of one’s diet is only raw food, and mainly this consists of uncooked fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouted beans though it can include some animal proteins
Food that is heated about 116 degrees Fahrenheit is not allowed when following a 100% raw diet.
“Baked” goods such as breads or crackers are made in a dehydrator, in which changes to fruits and vegetables textures can also be attained.
Those who follow the Raw Food Diet are known as rawists, according to the Living and Raw Foods website. Rawists believe that this type of eating plan enhances their energy and boosts their health.
Furthermore, proponents of the diet say that the best part of a raw food diet is that the nutrients, and especially the enzymes, are not destroyed in the process of cooking and are thus available to be absorbed and used by the body.
There are critics of the raw food diet and some downsides you need to consider before embarking on a diet that consists entirely of raw foods. Such a diet, for example, is usually a vegan diet, which lacks the protein seen in a diet that embraces fish, poultry, and meat.
You can get your protein by eating raw fish, as long as it comes from a safe source or else you risk a chance of ingesting pathogenic bacteria from these foods.
These are the pros and cons of eating a raw food diet: (Or check it out in a pretty picture at the bottom of this post)
Pro: The raw food diet retains the natural enzymes and undamaged phytonutrients that can be absorbed by the body but are broken down in the cooking process. When you eat the untainted enzymes, digestion is helped and the body can better absorb other nutrients when the enzymes are left untouched. This can increase the health and wellness of the cells of the body.
Con: While a raw food diet is a good thing in theory, it is not what is recommended in Ayurvedic teachings and in Traditional Chinese Medicine. According to these health programs, cooked foods are better for you because they are already partially broken down so they are more easily digested. Not all of the phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables are destroyed by cooking and some vegetables are actually absorbed better after they have been cooked.
Pro: Raw foods have a cooling effect on the body. This is why raw food diets are more popular in places where the climate is warm, such as the southern states and Hawaii. According to traditional Chinese medicine, raw foods cool the body and reduce inflammation.
People who are dealing with inflammatory conditions may do better with a raw food diet, while those who have problems feeling cold all the time would not thrive on a diet where everything they eat is cold.
Con: As mentioned, some foods are absorbed better by the body after they have been heated up. One example is tomatoes. The lycopene in tomatoes is a potent antioxidant that is better absorbed when the tomatoes are cooked.
Other vegetables, including spinach, kale, onions, and garlic have been found to be more nutritionally available after they have been cooked because the cooking releases important phytonutrients that would not be digested if the food is taken in raw.
Overcooked foods, however, especially overcooked or burned meats contain acrylamide along with other chemicals that can cause cancer and can lead to inflammation. In order to avoid this problem, foods should be steamed lightly or sautéed in oil in order to release all of the phytonutrients and to start the digestive process.
Pro: Many people are deficient in enzymes that would can be replaced by eating raw foods, which have not had their enzymes destroyed. If one eats a cooked diet, some experts recommend supplementing the diet with enzyme supplements so to improve their nutritional profile, but this can also be achieved by adding more raw food to one’s diet. Some of these enzymes include phytase; lipase, amylase, alpha-galactosidase, and invertase—all of which can help food get broken down easier so that the nutrients can be absorbed.
Con: The best diet is a diet that is balanced in terms of eating some foods raw and some foods cooked. Experts say that, while eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables is beneficial, the diet should also contain foods that are lightly cooked, including roasted vegetables, cooked fruits, meats, and eggs. This can provide you with the enzymes you need to absorb food as well as cooked food, which is much easier to digest than raw food.
There is no one perfect diet out there and that includes the raw food diet. Raw foods might be good for people who need the enzymes in order to digest their food but it may be bad for people who need the partial digestion of lightly cooked foods.
Rather than the extreme of eating a raw diet, it is recommended by many holistic practitioners that a balance is struck between cooked foods and raw foods so that the digestive system is taken care of in the healthiest way.