The raw food diet has been around since the 1800s, but has surged in popularity in recent years. Its supporters believe that consuming mostly raw foods is ideal for human health and has many benefits, including weight loss and better overall health. However, health experts warn that eating a mostly raw diet may lead to negative health consequences. Here is all the info.
What is it?
The raw food diet, often called raw foodism or raw veganism, is composed of mostly or completely raw and unprocessed foods. A food is considered raw if it has never been heated over 104–118°F (40–48°C). It should also not be refined, pasteurized, treated with pesticides or otherwise processed in any way. Instead, the diet allows several alternative preparation methods, such as juicing, blending, dehydrating, soaking and sprouting.
Similar to veganism, the raw food diet is usually plant-based, being made up mostly of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. While most raw food diets are completely plant-based, some people also consume raw eggs and dairy. Less commonly, raw fish and meat may be included as well. Additionally, taking supplements is typically discouraged on the raw food diet. Proponents often claim that the diet will give you all the nutrients you need.
Supporters also believe that cooking foods is harmful to human health because it destroys the natural enzymes in foods, reduces their nutrient content and reduces the "life force" that they believe to exist in all raw or "living" foods. People follow the raw food diet for the benefits they believe it has, including weight loss, improved vitality, increased energy, improvement to chronic diseases, improved overall health and a reduced impact on the environment.
How to follow the raw diet?
To follow the raw food diet, make sure at least 75% of the food you eat is raw.
Most raw food diets are made primarily of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Grains and legumes are often permitted as well, but usually need to be soaked or sprouted before you eat them.
Foods to Eat
- All fresh fruits
- All raw vegetables
- Raw nuts and seeds
- Raw grains and legumes, sprouted or soaked
- Dried fruits and meats
- Nut milks
- Raw nut butters
- Cold-pressed olive and coconut oils
- Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut
- Raw eggs or dairy, if desired
- Raw meat or fish, if desired
Foods to Avoid
- Cooked fruits, vegetables, meats and grains
- Baked items
- Roasted nuts and seeds
- Refined oils
- Table salt
- Refined sugars and flour
- Pasteurized juices and dairy
- Coffee and tea
- Other processed foods and snacks
Is raw food healthier than cooked food?
Raw food diet supporters believe that eating mostly or all raw food is ideal for human health. However, like many of the core beliefs behind the raw food diet, this idea is not backed by science. In fact, research shows that both cooked and raw foods have health benefits.
One of the main reasons the raw food diet discourages cooking is because of the belief that cooking destroys the natural enzymes in foods. The diet's advocates believe that these enzymes are vital to human health and digestion. High heat does cause most enzymes to denature — that is, to unravel or change shape. However, many enzymes denature in the acidic environment of the stomach anyway. In fact, the body already produces its own enzymes to facilitate chemical processes including digestion and energy production.
Fresh, raw foods are a valuable part of a healthy diet. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Cooking is important to make certain foods and nutrients more digestible. A completely or even mostly raw diet is likely to cause weight loss, but also makes it difficult to meet your nutritional needs. In the end, eating a combination of cooked and raw foods is ideal for your health.