The "Raw diet" is one food trend that's blossoming into cafes, restaurants, and juicing bars around the continent. Here's your quick low-down on what a raw food diet is and how eating raw foods can benefit your short-term wellbeing and long-term health.
See this snippet from Today's Dietitian on the history of raw food diets:
"Raw foodism goes back to the 1800s when one of the first proponents, Swiss-born Maximilian Oskar Bircher-Benner, claimed that eating raw apples helped cure his mild case of jaundice. He then conducted experiments with raw food and later opened a clinic in dietetics to teach his methods." (Today's Dietitian, 2016).
Raw food diets have gained popularity in recent years as seekers of improved health and diet explore more plant-centric diet plans. The supposition is that there are additional benefits to consuming these enzymes and the foods in their raw form - that they are nutritionally more complete, and that choosing a raw diet aids in avoiding consumption of processed foods that may be interfering with one's health.
What is a raw food diet?
Essentially, "raw foodists" do not eat food that is cooked. Followers of a raw food diet may include mostly plant foods that are not cooked over 116 degrees F, as the heat destroys most of the naturally-occurring enzymes found in plants, nuts and seeds. Some even include raw unpasteurized dairy or eggs, but not meat products (note: eating unpasteurized dairy and eggs pose significantly increased risk of foodborne illness).
What are the benefits to a raw diet?
Certainly many people who eat a largely raw, plant-based diet will likely experience weight loss due to the low-calorie nature of the raw foods they consume. I recommend not over-cooking vegetables in the first place, but eating certain (most) vegetables raw does give the highest nutritional quality. For others like eggplant, leafy greens, potatoes, celery, alfalfa sprouts, legumes, some mushrooms, and some grains, steaming or cooking actually improves the bioavailability of nutrients, eliminates naturally-occurring toxins, OR improves digestibility, flavour and/or texture.
What are the risks in eating a raw diet?
The issues arise when weight loss occurs too quickly (leading to muscle mass and strength loss), or when there are specific nutrients that may be missing from the diet when avoiding large groupings of foods. The specific nutrients most at risk to followers of a 100% raw diet are: vitamin B12, iron, calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Should I be consuming a raw food diet?
Success and health with a raw food diet depend on your time and dedication to appropriate meal planning. Eating a raw food diet may lead to a number of health benefits, or, unfortunately, mild to severe malnutrition of certain elements that are essential to normal biological functioning. Some people eat "Raw until 4" - that is, raw foods until 4 pm, and a cooked meal at dinner. Others may eat a 50% raw or 75% raw food diet rather than a strictly 100% raw food diet.
Specifically, choosing sprouted grain flour or sprouting your own grains as a topping for fruit or salad can be easier on the digestive system, as the plant enzymes start to naturally digest some of the grain kernel for you. See this link for how to sprout buckwheat, pick up your sprouting jar lid here, and then go here for a beautiful smoothie bowl to pair it with!
If my clients want to experiment with raw food preparation, I recommend starting with copious amounts of fruits and vegetables and finding fun raw recipes for helping veggies and whole fruits taste delicious and complete! Start today with a giant salad from my recipe pages!
*Note that raw desserts can pack a whole lot of calories on top of nutrition, since most are prepared with high fat nuts, seeds, and/or avocados. While I do love me a raw key lime avocado tart, I save raw food desserts for "treat" occasions just like any other dessert.
Have you tried any delicious raw food recipes? Leave a comment below!
Amidor, T. "Ask the Expert: The Raw Food Diet". Today's Dietitian, March 2016 Issue. Vol. 18 No. 3 P. 10. Accessed from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0316p10.shtml on August 10, 2017
Looking for a great book to guide you? Get yourself a copy of "Becoming Raw" by Brenda Davis, RD!