The raw food diet has had a lot of press recently with claims of rapid weight loss and improved health. This seems to make sense. After all, what could be better than eating food as nature intended ? Is it really something that you should consider ? Here’s the lowdown.
What is a Raw Food Diet ?
The basic principal of this approach have been with us forever. After all, what do you think man did before the invention of fire ? However, it really took off at the end of the 19th Century. One of the original ‘raw foodists’ was a doctor called Maximilian Bircher-Benner. He actually cured his own case of jaundice by eating a diet heavy in apples. This developed into a method using uncooked food for their health benefits.
For something apparently so simple, there are many ways to do this. In fact, virtually nobody takes the most basic apporach which is eating raw 100% of the time. Usually, those who follow this diet will eat ¾ of what they consume in its most natural state.
Why Eat Raw ?
So what’s the point ? Proponents claim that any sort of cooking, especially using modern methods like the microwave, destroys a lot of the vitamins and minerals present. Science supports this to some extent, at least. It is also claimed that heating will remove the other natural nutrients present in plants that supposedly boost the immune system. Evidence for this is far more anecdotal, however.
Actually, although we talk about raw food, anyone who eats like this will also avoid food that has been treated by pesticides, genetically engineered or transformed in any way at all. This means that you can forget anything in boxes or packets of any kind and should stick to organic food as closely as possible.
An overwhelming majority are also vegetarians or vegans and choose to follow a plant-based diet. This isn’t essential though, and it is definitely possible to eat fish and meat if you choose to eat raw.
There are some advantages to a raw food lifestyle that should be obvious to anyone. After all, anything based around leafy greens, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, olive oil and other unprocessed foods that are staples of healthy living is far better than a diet heavy in junk.
This diet is touted as an effective weapon against heart disease. Dealing with serious medical conditions is not just a simple case of eating differently, but if your diet is high in sugar and trans-fats, for example, it would be a smart move to get more raw vegetables and organic foods instead of chips ! Other people use raw food to control blood sugar levels. Processed foods can play havoc with these so removing this rubbish might be a smart step in the right direction.
Of course, the main reason why a lot of people will consider raw food recipes at all is because they are interested in losing body weight. A couple of studies have shown interesting results for weight loss through a raw food approach. It is consistently one of the best-performing ways to shift those extra pounds .
This does come with a warning however. Taking raw food dieting to excess can actually be dangerous for health. Why is this ?
Firstly, if you are eating exclusively a raw food vegan diet, it really can be tough to get in enough calories. Plant foods are certainly nutritious but aren’t generally calorie dense. Perfect for losing weight, not ideal if you go too far. For example, some women have developed amenorrhea, meaning that their menstrual cycle stopped because their body was undernourished.
Of course, these extremes are present in any diet if taken too far. This is why the majority of users add in some foodstuffs that are off-limits to very strict raw foodists who avoid all animal products in an exclusively plant-based diet. Adding things like unpasteurized milk (raw milk) and other dairy products, as well as raw fish and meat, is a sensible way of making sure that you get all the amino acids and essential fatty acids you need to stay healthy and avoid a lot of the issues associated with a vegan diet. You can also boost the calorie content (as well as taste) of plant foods with olive oil and coconut oil.
The Raw Kitchen
One of the bigger drawbacks to raw food is that it requires a certain amount of preparation. This is true both in terms of time and also equipment. If you want to make the most of it, here are four appliances that should be in your kitchen :
- Juicer. Juicing is a great way to get the benefits of fruits, vegetables and other natural ingredients without eating huge quantities. Vegetable juice is delicious and very healthy.
- Food Processor. A model that will slice, dice and really make food prep fast and simple will set you back a few bucks but makes life in the kitchen so much easier.
- Dehydrator. Really useful for making snacks and preserving food without using chemicals.
- Blender. Perfect for those soups and green smoothies.
This equipment requires a certain financial investment but will pay off by saving you both time and effort. There is a bit of a learning curve in all in this food prep. Anyone who has been following a raw food diet plan like this for any length of time gets to be a real expert in preparing ingredients and making recipes.
Downsides to Raw Eating
So are there any downsides (as long as you don’t take things to extremes ?) There are certainly a couple of things that could make you think twice. Firstly, convenience. As previously stated, food prep is time-consuming. Unfortunately, we live in a world where immediate satisfaction is king and we have become used to tearing the cover off that tv dinner, zapping it in the microwave and eating it two minutes later. Going raw will be a change in the way you see food and eating in general.
Taste can be a bit difficult at the start too. It will take a while to get good at using different herbs and spices to flavor food as well as becoming used to what raw food actually tastes like ! If you are a raw food vegan, for example, you are going to be removing lots of the things that provide taste and texture.
Occasionally, removing certain food groups from your plate can change the way you digest and absorb food too. Often adding in some natural digestive enzymes whilst your system resets can make a difference.
Finally, eating out can be an ordeal ! In fact on a raw vegan diet, it becomes next to impossible. As always, it really isn’t a bit deal to take a night off now and again and enjoy an evening in a restaurant.
Finally, it is important to source your products carefully. If you are eating raw eggs it is important to know where they’re from and just how fresh they are. Given that ingredients aren’t cooked, there is also nothing that will kill off any potentially harmful bacteria.
The raw food approach won’t be for everyone, but can certainly become part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. It will keep your intake of fruit and vegetables high and eliminate a lot of the rubbish that might normally be on your plate. When you see it like that, what’s not to like?