In the world of healthy eating, you would enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and lean protein. Raw food diet however, takes this same healthy eating concept to a completely new level and establishes a set of guidelines for how to eat and ‘cook’ your food.
Raw foodies are of the staunch opinion that food delivers the most amount of nutrients when it is eaten as is, that is completely raw.
If you come to think of it, the raw food diet is not really a diet because you don’t have to obsess over calories or put a limit on your food intake. It’s basically just plain healthy eating – to an extreme.
What Is A Raw Food Diet?
Raw food diet, or raw foodism, is based on a belief that by cooking foods, one actually eliminates their nutritional value and kills the essential enzymes that are responsible for making food so healthy. This is why this diet is also called the living food diet and is characterized by only eating uncooked and unprocessed food in its natural, raw (living state).
In raw foodism, cooking is limited to using methods like dehydration that keep food well below a temperature of 118 degrees F while cooking.
Similar to vegans, raw foodies consume plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Followers of the raw foodism are divided into a number of categories – the four most popular being:
- Raw vegetarians – who consume raw foods, including eggs and dairy products
- Raw vegans – who consume all kinds of raw foods while excluding animal products or byproducts
- Raw omnivores – who make a choice to eat plant and animal-based foods that are mostly raw
- Raw carnivores – who opt for 100% raw meat only diets
Health Benefits Of Raw Food Diet
Unlike typical fad detox diets that promote weight loss in the shortest time frame, a raw diet is aimed at improving your overall health throughout your life.
Here’s how eating raw specifically benefits your health.
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1. Cancer Protection
A study was presented a few years ago in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that examined the result of eating cooked broccoli versus raw broccoli.1
Broccoli contains sulforaphane – a compound that is not only anti-cancer but also lowers blood pressure.
It was discovered that higher amounts of sulforaphane were detected in the blood and urine when broccoli was consumed raw, while absorption of sulforaphane was delayed after eating cooked broccoli.
Garlic is another vegetable which can fight cancer more effectively when eaten raw, and eating raw garlic two or more times every week lowers risks of developing lung cancer. 2
Brussel sprouts, kale, bok choy, mustard, turnip, radish, and cauliflower are other vegetables that contain high levels of sulforaphane.
It is, therefore, clear that not only do you get better protection against cancer and high blood pressure, but your body can actually absorb these powerful compounds much better and faster when foods are eaten in their raw state.
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2. Combats Anemia
Leafy green veggies like avocado, asparagus, lentils, and beans are rich in folates. Folates are water-soluble B vitamin that helps our bodies produce healthy new cells. When combined with vitamin B12, it also stimulates the production of normal red blood cells.
A deficiency in folate makes you feel weak, tired, and irritable. It also leads to a decrease in appetite, while draining the color away from your skin, making you look sick.
Folate deficiency can also lead to anemia, which happens when the body has a shortage of red blood cells, thus resulting in lower levels of oxygen being available to circulate through the body.
Cooking vegetables can result in them losing their original content of folates. 3 Therefore it is recommended to eat vegetables raw in order to provide your body with the right amounts of this nutrient.
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3. Strong Immune System
If you read the ingredient label on over the counter immunity booster supplements, you’ll find out that most of the immunity powers come from a high dose of vitamin C.
It seems rather a pity to waste money on a processed, powdered version of this essential nutrient when instead, you can easily have direct access to the source by eating fruits and vegetables like raw carrots, raw red peppers, strawberries, and oranges.
When processed and canned, vegetables lose a considerable amount of their natural vitamin C content.4 Additionally, depending on the method used, home cooking can also lead to a loss of 15 to 55% of vitamin C.
Therefore eating vitamin c rich fruits and vegetables raw is the best way to give your body the dose of vitamin C that it needs for stronger immunity.
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4. Lower BMI
Studies have shown that following a raw diet shows a significantly lower body mass index.5
Greens and vegetables, when cooked have very few calories per bite of any food. Eating a lot of fruits is also helpful because they increase blood sugar and reduce appetite – thus making you feel more satisfied.
By following a raw diet, you not only lower your total BMI and body fat, you also reduce the risk of chronic diseases and health issues like diabetes, heart stroke, and heart attacks.
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5. Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases
The bioactive compounds present in plant-based foods interact with cells, hormones, enzymes, and the DNA which influences gene expression and cell changes to significantly reduce chronic diseases.6
Raw foods help lower the risk of cancer, indigestion, and chronic inflammation. Inflammation is often the main cause of most chronic diseases. The antioxidants released by consuming natural foods eaten raw or minimally cooked counter harmful free radicals that are responsible for causing inflammation.
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6. Improved Skin And Increased Energy
Plenty of supporters of the raw food diet claim that you will notice a marked improvement in your skin’s appearance and texture and also an increase in your energy levels with time.
While there doesn’t seem to be any research studies to confirm these claims, you will certainly find raw foodies who give credit to their raw diet for their skin and feelings of positivity.
Word Of Caution: One Size Doesn’t Fit All
With any change in diet or eating habits, it is extremely important to weigh both the pros and cons with a certified dietician or doctor before making any drastic changes to your lifestyle.
Raw food diet faces a few scientifically researched debates that claim that certain foods when cooked are actually healthier than when they are raw. For instance, three cups of raw spinach can give your body 90 milligrams of calcium, while just one cup of cooked spinach delivers about 259 milligrams which is nearly triple the amount.
So while raw spinach, which is rich in folate and vitamins would be very beneficial for a raw foodie, the cooked version, on the other hand, is a much better bet for a vegan who consumes no dairy products at all and would therefore definitely need to take in a good amount of calcium.
We would therefore, recommend that you do your own homework first to find out what your body needs, before embarking on a raw food diet.
|↑1||Vermeulen, Martijn, Ineke WAA Klöpping-Ketelaars, Robin van den Berg, and Wouter HJ Vaes. “Bioavailability and kinetics of sulforaphane in humans after consumption of cooked versus raw broccoli.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 56, no. 22 (2008): 10505-10509.|
|↑2||Jin, Zi-Yi, Ming Wu, Ren-Qiang Han, Xiao-Feng Zhang, Xu-Shan Wang, Ai-Ming Liu, Jin-Yi Zhou, Qing-Yi Lu, Zuo-Feng Zhang, and Jin-Kou Zhao. “Raw garlic consumption as a protective factor for lung cancer, a population-based case–control study in a Chinese population.” Cancer Prevention Research (2013).|
|↑3||McKillop, Derek J., Kristina Pentieva, Donna Daly, Joseph M. McPartlin, Joan Hughes, J. J. Strain, John M. Scott, and Helene McNulty. “The effect of different cooking methods on folate retention in various foods that are amongst the major contributors to folate intake in the UK diet.” British Journal of Nutrition 88, no. 06 (2002): 681-688.|
|↑4||Rickman, Joy C., Diane M. Barrett, and Christine M. Bruhn. “Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 87, no. 6 (2007): 930-944.|
|↑5||Carmody, Rachel N., and Richard W. Wrangham. “The energetic significance of cooking.” Journal of Human Evolution 57, no. 4 (2009): 379-391.|
|↑6||Tuso, Philip J., Mohamed H. Ismail, Benjamin P. Ha, and Carole Bartolotto. “Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets.” The Permanente Journal 17, no. 2 (2013): 61.|