The raw food diet consists of unlimited amounts of uncooked fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes. Rice, raw oils, fish, wine and cheese may also be consumed on a raw diet. Skeptics question if the raw food diet provides enough protein to satisfy the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 44-66 grams. Advocates praise the abundance of essential vitamins and minerals on the diet. Here are a few of the risks and benefits of the raw food diet:
Risks of the Raw Food Diet
1. Parasites: Heat removes threats such as salmonella, cyclospora, and food-borne illnesses.
2. Poisoning: Uncooked beans such as kidney and lima beans may be poisonous. Boiling these types of beans kills PHA (phytohemagglutinin) and linamarin. Linamirin produces hydrogen cyanide and uncooked kidney beans contain a dangerous 20,000 to 70,000 hau (unit of toxin measure).
3. Lack of Disease-Preventative Properties: Phytochemicals contain disease-preventative properties. Cartenoids, which are found in carrots, spinach, kale, butternut squash, pumpkin, red peppers, carrots, tomatoes, cantaloupe melon, and sweet potatoes, are common types of phytochemicals. The cooking process makes cartenoids easier to absorb.
4. Lack of Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is found in fish, meat, and dairy. If you consume a diet that is made up of mostly fruits and vegetables, you will become B12 deficient. Vitamin B12 decreases homocysteine, which is a major cause of heart disease, weak arteries, and nerves. Vitamin B12 supports red blood cells, nerves, and energy production.
Benefits of the Raw Food Diet
1. Enzyme Preservation: Raw foodists believe that cooking food under 145 degrees helps preserve plant enzymes. Plant enzymes are destroyed by the acids in the stomach and scientists say they are not needed for human digestion. The human body produces more than 22 enzymes on its own.
2. Reduced Risk of Heart Disease and Cancer: Raw food is low in salt and saturated fat, and high in fiber. According to the American Heart Association, a low fat, low sodium, diet helps control cholesterol — a major cause of heart disease. A high fiber diet helps protect against certain cancers such as colon and pancreatic cancer.
3. Weight Loss: If you switch from a high fat, high calorie diet to a raw diet, you will likely lose weight as a result of cutting fat and calories. Like any other diet, you will still have to watch your calorie intake and expenditure. Remember, 3,500 calories is equal to 1 pound of fat. This means, in order to lose 1 pound, you must burn 3,500 more calories than you take in, no matter where the calories come from.
4. Increased Energy: Raw foodists claim that eating live, raw foods increases energy. The diet lacks simple sugars (cookies, baked goods, sugary fruit rinks, and soda) which send insulin levels soaring, only to send them crashing down an hour or so after consumption. This can cause you to feel drained and fatigued. The right combination of raw foods (fruits, veggies, proteins, and carbohydrates), will help keep insulin levels in check. This could leave you feeling more energized.