Depending on who you talk to, a raw food diet is either the most natural, best diet out there or a road to serious undernourishment. With the truth somewhere in between, a raw food diet that consists of uncooked and unprocessed plant foods leads to more energy, clearer skin and a thinner body.
The main principle of raw foodism is that you eat plant foods in their most natural state – uncooked and unprocessed. This type of diet is more of a lifestyle choice than a weight loss plan. Proponents believe that this is a healthy way to live and more natural than eating cooked food.
There are no distinct phases to this diet or calorie counting required. The raw food diet simply entails significantly changing the way you eat to cut out all cooked and processed foods. Most people on a raw food diet are vegans and eat no animal products, while others eat raw eggs and cheese made from unpasteurized milk.
Subscribing to a raw food diet entails a lot of time straining, peeling, chopping, blending and dehydrating food in the kitchen. Typically made up of 75% fruits and vegetables, staples of this diet include whole grains, seaweed, sprouts, sprouted seeds, dried fruits and nuts.
What to Get Excited Over
There is not a great deal of research done on this kind of diet, however, of that available, most shows pretty positive health effects to eating a raw food diet. One study showed that eating raw, cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts can reduce your risk of bladder cancer. Another study showed that eating raw vegetables can help to reduce the risk of gastric, oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal and esophageal cancers.
People who eat this kind of diet generally have low cholesterol and low triglycerides. They also tend to have good levels of vitamin A and dietary carotenoids, both of which come from fruits, vegetables and nuts and help protect your body from chronic disease.
Generally, people on this diet lose a lot of weight during the initial stages as similar to any vegan or vegetarian diet. If you are interested in losing weight, this is a good choice if you want to commit to making a serious lifestyle change.
Things to Consider
In some studies, researchers have concluded that raw foodists have high levels of a vitamin B12 deficiency, a vitamin found only in animal products naturally. Additionally, many people also have lower than average plasma lycopene levels, another element that is thought to assist in disease prevention. Lycopene is found in deep red fruits such as tomatoes, but is highest only when tomatoes are cooked.
If you are considering a raw food diet, you need to make sure that you are getting enough calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and B12, most of which come from animals products. Consider taking supplements to bridge this nutritional gap or eat plenty of iron-rich plant foods, calcium-rich vegetables, fortified with B12 foods and plant-based omega-3s like nuts and their oils.
If you are a healthy adult and think you will be alright with giving up meat or dairy, a raw food diet may be a good choice for you. Though this diet is not recommended for infants and children, the American Dietetic Association does recommend a plant-based diet. However, they do point out that by cooking some food such as eggs and tomatoes, the nutrients are better absorbed by the body. If you choose to do this kind of diet, do plenty of research and make sure that you are getting all the necessary minerals and vitamins that may not be present in a raw food diet.