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What is a Raw Food Diet?
A raw food diet consists of uncooked, unprocessed and
often organic foods that have not been heated above
115° F. According to raw foodists, enzymes are the life
force of a food, helping us digest and absorb nutrients.
The theory follows, if we over consume cooked food our
bodies are forced to work harder by producing more
enzymes. Over time a lack of enzymes from food is
thought to lead to digestive problems, nutrient deficiency,
accelerated aging and weight gain. Most raw foodists are
vegans who eat no animal products, but some do consume
raw eggs and cheese made from raw or unpasteurized
milk. Staple foods of the diet include: fresh fruits and
vegetables; seaweed; sprouted seeds, whole grains
and beans; dried fruits, and nuts.
Why Choose a Raw Food Diet?
The raw food diet, plentiful with fruits and vegetables, is
typically low in sodium, sugar and saturated fat and high
in potassium, magnesium, folate, fiber, vitamin A and other
health promoting antioxidants. Cooking vegetables may
kill important nutrients, and raw vegetables are believed
to help reduce the risk of certain cancers such as oral,
esophageal and stomach. When food is baked at high
temperatures, especially when fried or barbecued, toxic
compounds are formed and important nutrients are lost. In
addition, many vitamins are water-soluble, and a significant
percent can be lost with cooking, especially overcooking.
Similarly, many plant enzymes function as phytochemical
nutrients in the body and can be useful to maximize health.
They can be destroyed by overcooking.
Reported benefits of the raw food diet:
- Improved health and appearance of skin
- Improved memory
- Improved immune system functioning
- Improved fertility
- Improved digestion
- Weight loss
- Decreased risk for developing heart and cardiovascular disease
- Enhanced sleep
- Increased mental clarity
Why Not Choose a Raw Food Diet?
Proponents of a raw food diet claim that cooking destroys
enzymes found in plants. However once plant enzymes are
ingested they do not function as enhancements or replacements
for human digestive enzymes. These molecules exist to serve
the plant’s purpose, not ours. The plant enzymes get digested
by our own digestive juices along with the rest of the food and
are absorbed and utilized as nutrients.
Even though following a diet focused on fruits and vegetables
can enhance our health on many levels, these foods do not
necessarily have to be raw for us to reap the benefits. In fact,
several foods become more healthful after cooking because
their fibrous portion is broken down. Some of these foods
include: tomatoes; eggs; beans and lentils; bitter greens, and
starchy foods such as potatoes, yams, squashes and grains.
Even more important than the nutrients that cooking can “add”
to food are the things it can take away, namely pathogenic
bacteria. Cooking is the best and final defense against
Salmonella, E. coli, and other microscopic organisms that
can hitch a ride on our foods.
The raw food diet is not for everyone. Children, pregnant and
nursing mothers, anemics and people at risk for osteoporosis
should be cautious if considering a raw food diet. There is a
potential risk for nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin B12,
iron, zinc, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.
Reported drawbacks of the raw food diet:
- Requires a lot of organization and preparation
- Digestive problems
- Difficulty eating out
- Potential risk for nutritional deficiencies
- Possible decrease in bone density
- Food cravings
- Stalled weight loss due to low metabolism
- Loss of libido
- Hair loss and nail problems
- Dental erosion
Preparations for a Raw Food Diet
Raw foodists do not cook using a traditional stove or oven, but instead use blenders,
food processors, juicers and dehydrators that lend taste and texture of cooked food.
Many raw foods are simple to prepare, such as fruits, salads, meat and dairy. However,
other foods can require considerable advanced planning to prepare for eating. (The
only heating that is acceptable is with a dehydrator that blows hot air through the food,
never rising above 115° F.)
Soaking and Sprouting
Raw beans, legumes, nuts and seeds
contain enzyme inhibitors that are
normally destroyed with cooking. The
nutrients can be released by soaking
them (germination) or sprouting
them. Although the recommended
time can vary from hours to up to one
day, soaking overnight is sufficient
and convenient. Steps: rinse beans,
nuts, legumes, or seeds and place
in a glass container. Add room
temperature purified water to cover and
soak at room temperature overnight.
After germination, seeds, beans and
legumes can be sprouted. After they
are drained during the final step of
the germination process, place them
in a container for sprouting. Leave
them at room temperature for the
recommended time. The seed, bean
or legume will open and a sprout will
grow from it. Rinse the sprouted nuts
or seeds and drain well. They can
be stored in airtight containers
A controlled process of food decomposition
where foods begin to naturally
break down, creating new nutrients
and beneficial digestive bacteria.
Foods can be heated, never above 115°
F, using a piece of equipment called
a dehydrator to simulate sun-drying.
Dehydrators can be used to make raisins,
sundried tomatoes, kale chips, crackers,
breads, croutons and fruit leathers.
Foods can be blended or chopped using a
food processor or blender to make recipes
for smoothies, pesto, soups and hummus.
Originally developed as a means
of food preservation, pickling offers
several additional advantages: reduced
food storage costs; flavor and culinary
enhancement, and increased health
benefits such as vitamins, amino acids
and healthy bacteria.
A great way to incorporate a wider variety
of produce into your diet, juicing extracts
the juice from whole fruits and vegetables
giving your body a boost of vitamins and
other necessary nutrients.
Blender; thermometer; dehydrator; juicer;
mini-blender; food processor; spiral slicer,
and large containers or trays to soak and
sprout seeds, grains and beans.
Tips for Trying
a Raw Food Diet
- Ease into the diet. Don’t be focused
on being 100% raw but instead find
the balance that works best with your
lifestyle and consider it an evolving
- Choose a raw food plan you can stick
with. Find recipes and make meal plans,
especially as you begin.
- It is normal to experience a
detoxification reaction when starting a
raw food diet, especially if your previous
diet was rich in meat, sugar and
caffeine. Mild headaches, nausea and
cravings can occur but usually only last
a few days.
- If you don’t want to go completely raw
but still want the nutritive benefits, you
can consume the same types of foods
that the raw food diet focuses on:
vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc. but prepare
them differently. Have a veggie stir-fry,
soups, stews, steamed vegetables or
fresh fruit and juice instead.
- It is true that many people are enzyme
deficient. Consider taking an enzyme
supplement which is designed to survive
the acidic environment in the stomach
and release digestive benefits once it
reaches the small intestines where most
nutrients are absorbed.
- In addition, the minerals zinc and
chromium support digestive function,
while cinnamon, ginger, cardamom,
and other herbs strengthen the digestive
system, alleviate occasional
digestive discomfort, and promote
healthy liver function.
Raw Foods Diet Shopping List
(brands available at the Co-op)
- Navitas Naturals
- Himalayan Harvest
- Alive & Radiant
- Ruth’s Raw Goodness
- Raw Revolution
- Mauk Family Farms
- Go Raw
- Lydia’s Organic
- Uli Mana
- Kaia Foods