It seems as if a new diet comes out every other day, and some can seem hard to tackle - even to get your head around. But one diet, the raw food diet, is slowly becoming as popular as being vegetarian and vegan. In effect, these food choices are actually more of a lifestyle choice then just a dietary choice.
The raw food diet itself is based on the idea that you should cook none of your food. If you do it must only be cooked slightly. The diet is mostly organic, fresh, unrefined and plant-based foods. Like any type of diet, there are different variations on it, with some choosing to still eat meat just in a raw form, whilst others will only stick to plant-based foods. The diet is quite often measured in percentages, so someone could have a 25% raw diet. However it is generally believed that if you are 75% or above then you are a "raw vegan". In every diet there are positives and negatives, so let’s take a look at what those are.
Some vitamins are lost in cooking – some are gained
The general idea behind the raw food diet is that most foods’ nutrients and vitamins are significantly lost when cooked at a higher temperature than 118 degrees. So to get the best out of your food, those on the diet believe you shouldn’t cook any of your food. If you do, it must not be any hotter than 118 degrees.
This statement that nutrients are lost by cooking is true to a certain degree because vitamins like vitamin C and B are extremely reduced if heated. However, there are some nutrients that are enhanced by the cooking process because the heat is able to break down barriers and fibres that can then release more nutrients into the food. Also, due to the fibres being broken down, the food is easier to absorb. This is true for foods rich in iron and zinc. It can be seen that there are benefits to both types of eating methods. For many, a mix of the two appears the most beneficial.
It highlights food intolerance – but also allergies
The raw food diet cuts out many foods like milk, eggs and gluten produce. These ingredients, in particular, are often linked with food intolerances but by cutting these products out you could see positive effects. Many might be surprised to find they do have an intolerance to these foods, due to the fact that they are often a stable of everyday eating for many of us. So by trying the raw food diet it can highlight issues in your body you just believed were normal. This can decrease bloating, skin irritations and problematic bowel movements.
However, it can also highlight food allergies to raw foods which are more likely to have contact with pollen. A common sign of this is mouth and throat swelling, which can be common when eating fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts. Other symptoms can include eczema, constipation, tiredness and vomiting. It could be beneficial to create a food diary when starting any diet, so you can track what you have eaten and if you have a reaction to it.
Anyone who does have nut allergies may find trying the diet more challenging than other, due to the large amounts of nuts found in the diet.
Your kitchen skills will improve – eating out will be harder
Starting the raw food diet for some can be challenging, as it does mean a complete change in what foods you buy and what meals you make. At the start, it can appear hard to find good recipes, but by looking through YouTube you can definitely find some great meals to eat. However, it will mean you have to up your kitchen skills and possibly get more creative with how you prepare meals. Many who are on the diet play around with juicing, dehydrating and also fermenting food. Your love for preparing meals might just increase. However, it also means you most likely won’t be able to eat out often, if at all. There are not many raw food options on restaurant menus. This might mean you can no longer go out to nice restaurants, which could also limit your social life. Nevertheless, you could simply hold more dinner parties and invite friends over and introduce your friends to the raw food diet as well. However, never try to place your dietary views on others, let them see the benefits and decide for themselves.
You can still get protein – from plants
Due to the links with vegetarianism and veganism, many might believe that the raw food diet excludes any type of animal produce. This is simply not the case. Those on the diet can choose to get their protein from fish and meat as long as it is raw or slightly warmed. A good example of this is salmon. However, doing this can increase your chances of getting food poisoning, so you have to be thoughtful of this if you choose to eat raw meat and fish.
There are still a wide range of possibilities with regards to how you can get protein in the diet. The main source of protein will be found in nuts, seeds, kale, leafy greens, mushrooms and quinoa. These are all a great source of protein that can easily fill you up.
You still need variation – even with fruit and veg
As the old saying goes “everything in moderation”. And this also applies to the seemingly healthy diets based on vegetables and fruit. When you start the raw food diet your intake of fruit and vegetables will probably increase greatly, which overall is very beneficial to your health. But with most raw food diets a lot of juicing is involved, and this means the fruit becomes more concentrated. If this is done excessively, the citric acid and sugars in fruit and vegetables can start to break down teeth enamel. This is a tip to remember in a diet: everything in moderation.
It gives you more enzymes – but is that good?
Lastly, it is well known that cooking food can destroy the enzymes in the food which can mean the food is hard to digest. But this might not be as bad as it appears, as the body does produce its own enzymes this can break down food and make sure they are digested properly.
Should you try it?
Overall, there are clearly benefits to a raw food diet. Yet there are still drawbacks, which is why many choose to implement the diet into their lives, but not reject cooking food completely. There are benefits to trying both in your diet and having a healthy balance between raw food and cooked food is good. The best thing the diet can change is the heightened awareness that comes with being conscious of what you put into your body.
The diet itself is not advisable for pregnant women, young children or those with a weak immune system. But if you want to add a healthy twist to your eating habits, you can try out the raw food diet.
If you do transition into a raw food diet the best way is to start juicing and making smoothies. Try out these smoothie recipes to set you on your raw food journey!