Frustrated with excess weight, highly processed, chemical-laden foods, and food sensitivities, many women are setting goals to lose weight, detox and get healthy. With its focus on whole, unprocessed nutrition and optimal health, some people are turning to the Raw Food Diet as a way to lose weight, energize their bodies, and reduce their environmental footprint.
What Can You Eat on a Raw Food Diet?
So, you can’t cook your food; but what can you eat? Raw foodists may eat all fruits, vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds, grains, sea vegetables and other unprocessed organic or natural foods. The raw food diet is vegan, which means that all animal and dairy products are a no-no.
To drink, raw foodists consume such liquids as purified water (not tap), freshly-made juices, and milks made from almonds and coconut. To avoid pesticides and herbicides, as well as to consume food with higher nutritional value, raw foodists aim to eat all organic food, as local (or wild) as possible.
Is Cooking Food Really Such a Crime?
No, it isn’t, but raw foodists believe that heating food above 115 degrees F (45 Celsius) and eating foods which need to be cooked (such as meats and animal products) have negative impacts on the human body and the environment.
Cooking Food Destroys Enzymes
The cooking process kills enzymes naturally present in raw foods which are necessary to properly digest food. Consequently, your body is forced to exert additional energy manufacturing its own enzymes to digest food, which can make you feel tired and sluggish after eating a cooked meal. The enzymes produced by your digestive tract are not as efficient as the ones present in raw food, which means that typically food is not adequately digested; this can lead to food sitting undigested and rotting in your intestines, causing gas, indigestion, and potentially leaving you open to attack from harmful [tooltip text="The issue of parasites is a tricky one when considering eating only raw food, since cooking kills many parasites and harmful bacteria. Raw foodists practice strict food hygiene and refrigeration to avoid contracting parasites or food poisoning."]parasites[/tooltip].
Cooked Food is More Acidic
Cooking food also changes the pH of food, making it more acidic. Ideally humans should eat more alkaline foods since an acidic body may be more susceptible to disease.
Raw Food Can Be More Nutritious
Raw foodists also believe that cooking food destroys many important vitamins present in raw foods and can make minerals more difficult to absorb. However, some nutrients such as the antioxidant [tooltip text="Lycopene is a non-essential phytochemical found in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables, such as red carrots, watermelons and papayas (but not strawberries or cherries), which has high antioxidant power and may reduce the risk of developing cancer."]lycopene[/tooltip] found in tomatoes actually increases in concentration the more you cook and process tomatoes.
The Life Force of Food
Some people who adopt a raw food diet do so for philosophical reasons, believing that cooked food is dead food, robbed of its life force, which in turn leaves the consumer feeling heavy and tired. By contrast, they believe that raw food has vital energy which is conveyed onto the person who eats it.
Preparing Raw Food
Raw foodists prepare their food using techniques such as soaking seeds, grains and beans so that they sprout and become “living,” juicing fruit and vegetables, soaking nuts and dried fruit, blending, and dehydrating food.
Benefits of Eating Raw Food
Raw foodists say they experience physical and mental improvements such as increased energy levels and feeling less tired, better digestion, weight loss, detoxification, enhanced cognitive function, a strengthened immune system and a clearer complexion. And a raw food diet has little to no saturated fats, is low in sodium, and high in potassium and fiber.
Raw Food for the Planet
In terms of global impact, raw foodists contribute to a cleaner world since they choose to eat food that is not processed, sprayed with herbicides, pesticides or genetically modified.
The Union of Concerned Scientists lists meat-eating as the second-biggest environmental hazard facing the Earth, second behind fossil-fuel vehicles. Because the raw food diet is vegan vegetarian, raw foodists do not rely on the vast food, water and land resources dedicated to raising, feeding and slaughtering animals for food. And then there’s the animal waste; according to the Environmental Protection Agency, raising animals for food is the world’s number one source of water pollution.
The Raw Food Diet Review
Registered dietitian Laurie Barker Jackman says sticking to a raw food diet is a ton of work. She also says followers of this diet could be protein deficient and that it’s easy to lack nutrients such as calcium, iron and vitamin B12 in such a restrictive diet, so it’s important to get
high quality supplements, and always consult a dietitian, nutritionist or medical professional before beginning a diet as restricted as vegetarian, vegan or raw food diets.