The pros and cons of a raw food diet (and a beautiful raw food recipe book!)
By Amy Crawford
I don't know about you, but for a long time I felt the pressure to eat raw, lots of raw. I was lead to believe that raw food was THE best food to eat and the more the better (and yes, I'm sure many reading this will be nodding their heads in agreement). Every day I threw down raw smoothies, juices, salads, you name it. But choosing to eat only (or predominantly) raw food is not I believe the best option for all of us. I have learnt through experience, that the removal of a portion of raw food from my diet produced considerable improvements in my digestion. And there's my answer.
The same however can not I'm sure, be said for all us. We are all individuals - each of us responds differently to different dietary choices (I for instance would be horizontal if I tried to commit to a vegan diet, after just one day as a matter of fact). It's called bio-individuality. Some can't tolerate raw food at all. You get my drift.
So, what is Raw Foodism?
Raw foodism is the dietary practice of consuming uncooked, unprocessed and often organic food as the majority (or all) of the diet. The idea of eating as close to nature as possible rings true for this way of life, here the idea is to eat plant foods in their most natural state. Developed by the Swiss doctor M. Bircher-Benner in the 19th Century, and initially used as a dietary health treatment for common ailments, over the years the raw food momentum has grown. And rightfully so! Raw food offers a whole host of benefits to the body. Here we discuss these benefits, alongside the the possible downfalls, all worthy considerations if you are contemplating the raw food lifestyle.
So, what do raw foodists eat?
The raw food diet is most typically plant based and includes a selection of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Eggs, fish (in the form of uncooked sashimi), meat (carpaccio) and raw dairy products (non-pasteurised and non-homogenised) may also be included. Of note, refined sugars, caffeine and alcohol are considered off limits amongst the strict raw foodists.
How are foods prepared?
Food preparation and processing is minimised on the raw food diet, with the ideology that in doing so maximum nutrient value is retained. Food must remain uncooked or cooked in a temperature that does not exceed 40-46 degrees C. No need for an oven, a dehydrator is a raw foodists kitchen appliance of choice! So what are the pros and cons of this type of food preparation?
The pros of a raw food diet
1. Living foods! Raw foodists believe that cooking food diminishes its natural life energy and destroys much of the nutrients and natural enzymes in the food. Enzymes are required by your body to assist in the breaking down of food. Maximise these nutrient benefits by eating raw.
2. Studies have found that cooking foods may release carcinogens and free radicals that are harmful to health (read more here). The raw food diet eliminates this risk.
3. The raw food diet is based on unrefined, unprocessed foods and thus essentially eliminates trans fat and refined sugars, while offering very low levels of saturated fat and sodium.
4. Raw foods contain high levels of healthy fats and fibre.
5. The focus on purchasing local, organic foods lends a helping hand to our long term sustainable environment.
The cons of a raw food diet
1. Raw food diets are often found to be low in essential nutrients. Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, calcium, iron and omega 3 fatty acid deficiencies are most notable. Studies have shown that the most dedicated raw foodists may be risk of low bone mass, which can result in osteoporosis and increased risk of fractures.
2. Raw foodists should be aware that choosing to eat meat put themselves at risk of food poisoning and gastroenteritis. Cooking food kills harmful bacteria (salmonella for example) which may occur in the food.
3. Certain vegetables actually require cooking to release key nutrients. The carotenoids in carrots, and the lycopene in tomatoes, for example, become more bio-available once these vegetables are cooked.
4. Cooked foods can be more gentle on the digestive system than raw foods, which can prove to be quite irritating to some digestive systems.
On that note, the recommendation from THI is to definitely include some raw foods in your day. A well balanced diet that incorporates some raw food element will always be of benefit. As an example, I have a raw juice (mainly green) every day and always at room temperature for optimal digestion; I serve kimchi at almost every meal; I like to have raw berries with my breakfast and in summer I love a salad (more so than winter).
Whether you decide to join the strict raw food movement is entirely up to you, but we hope we have given you some 'food' for thought.
So, how to include raw foods deliciously? Well, recently I was honoured to be included in an eBook by Anna Victoria Rodgers called Simply The Best. This beautiful book features raw food recipes, profiles raw health remedies (perfect for winter) and even tells you how to make your own raw beauty products (this in particular I love!). Full to the brim with over 100 living food recipes, it's a beauty. It's also a bit awesome to be featured alongside so many high profile raw food chefs. If you'd like to have a read of Simply The Best, or indeed purchase your own copy, simply follow this link.
A sneak peak into of the pages from Simply The Best, the eBook below.
* Do know that I am an affiliate for this eBook, and receive a small commission for every eBook sold. That said, I only choose to promote products I feel will be of value to you.