When it comes to packing a punch brimming with vitamins, minerals, and heart healthy fats and oils, raw food is more nutritious than most processed, packaged foods. If nothing else, choosing a raw food diet will help you meet or exceed the U.S. recommended daily allowance (USRDA) for vitamins and minerals, but can it actually help you lose weight? Most raw foodists seem to think so, but dietitians and nutritionists agree that no matter what you eat, calories count.
Raw Food, Weight Loss and Calories Explained
In order to lose weight on any type of diet, you have to burn off more calories than you take in. On a raw diet, like any other diet, it is possible to consume too many calories. Unfortunately, a calorie is a calorie even if it comes from an excellent food source. Strict raw foodists consume copious amounts fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, coconuts and seaweed. But raw foodists also consume brown rice, legumes such as lentils, olives, green powders, raw honey, raw maple syrup, agave nectar, oils and even wine, raw milk cheese and salt. If the food product is labeled “raw,” it can be included in the raw diet.
Raw foods still contain carbohydrates, protein and fats. Carbohydrates and proteins have roughly 4 calories per gram, and fats have around 9 calories a gram. Alcohol has approximately 7 calories a gram. Calories from any food source are stored in your body as fat or converted to physical energy. Regardless of where they come from, the stored calories remain in your body as fat until you use them up, either by reducing calorie intake so that your body must draw on reserves for energy, or by increasing physical activity so that you burn more calories.
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. This can be achieved by cutting calories (cut no less than 500 per day) and exercising (on most days – see next section). On a raw diet, you may consider cutting back on foods such as raw almond and peanut butters, raw dairy, raw wine and sugary foods such as maple syrup and honey. Many raw foodists snack on raw bars made with nuts, seeds and raw sweeteners such as honey and syrup. It’s important to remember that healthy snacks such as raw bars may contain several hundred calories.
Raw Food and Portion Sizes
The key to any diet is moderation. The raw diet is no exception. Once you have selected a well-rounded menu of low-calorie raw foods, you should reduce portion sizes to lose weight. For example, if you eat several helpings of lentils and rice with salt, you could be consuming 1,000 calories, 210 carbohydrates, and 2,400 milligrams of sodium in just one meal. A quarter cup of raw lentils contains around 169 calories and 34 carbohydrates. A half cup of raw brown rice contains around 342 calories and 71.4 carbohydrates. A teaspoon of salt contains 2,400 milligrams of sodium – a major cause of fluid retention. If you double these figures, the total calorie intake is 1,022, carbohydrates (210.8) and sodium (4,800 milligrams). To reduce the portion size for this meal, try a quarter cup of lentils, a quarter cup of rice and omit the salt. Total calorie and carbohydrate intake: 340/69.7.
Raw Food and Exercise
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), adults should exercise for a minimum of 150 minutes per week. This can be accomplished by engaging in 30 minutes of aerobic activity such as power walking, bike riding or even yard work. For more extensive health benefits, the HHS states that adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 5 hours (300 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity or 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. A combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity will achieve the same results. Muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week is recommended as well in order to strengthen the skeletal structure, increase metabolism and tone the body.
For more information about raw or live food dieting and exercise, see: