Like many alternative diets, the raw food diet is in fact grounded on a few good principles.
In the westernised world we are eating far too much junk food, so shifting our focus towards more of a plant-based diet would be a healthy move for most of the population.
But, what exactly is the raw food diet?
It is based on a diet of unprocessed (preferably organic), whole plant-based foods, at least 75 percent of which should be uncooked, consisting of:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Freshly made fruit and vegetable juices
- Sun-dried fruits
- Fresh sprouted seeds
- Nuts and seeds
- Young coconuts
- Seaweeds such as nori, dulse, Laver, sea lettuce, and kombu
The Raw Food Diet Is Scientifically Flawed
However, one of the main problems with the raw food diet is that the philosophy behind it is scientifically flawed, and makes little sense biologically.
Here are some of the outlandish claims raw foodists make:
#1 Cooking food destroys its natural enzymes
While it is true to say that cooking can destroy some of the enzymes, most food enzymes are destroyed, or rendered inactive, by the acidity of the stomach anyway.
So, not cooking food doesn’t save it from this fate.
The simple fact is that plant enzymes are not needed for human digestion. Your digestive system is highly sophisticated at producing its own enzymes, which are specific to the food you eat.
In fact even if the plant enzymes did survive the digestive enzymes, your body will still produce it’s own enzymes.
#2 Cooked food is toxic
This is an idiotic theory – if cooked food was toxic, the majority of the population would have been wiped out a long time ago.
#3 White blood cells flood the stomach after eating cooked food
Apparently this is because they are trying to fight the poison that has just entered your body.
Under normal circumstances, a healthy body will not experience white blood cells entering the stomach – the stomach is simply not open to the vascular system.
This theory is not supported in any way, shape, or form by the medical literature.
#4 Cooked food is unrecognisable to the body
Again this is a complete misunderstanding of the digestive system – it assumes that the digestive system can distinguish between different foods, and their method of cooking.
It doesn’t matter whether you eat raw meat, or cooked meat, it is treated just the same. The digestive enzymes break it down, and the resulting molecules are absorbed. Whatever can’t be used will pass right through the body.
It is not dependent on whether the food was cooked, or not.
#5 Raw food is more ‘natural’
Raw foodists claim this is one of the most natural diets around, however you need to ask yourself why such a ‘natural’ diet runs the risks of being deficient in B12, zinc, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, amongst other things?
Side Effects Of The Raw Food Diet
When Steve Pavlina went on his 30 day raw trial this is what he said about the side effects:
“The initial detox period seemed to last about two weeks. Symptoms included bad breath, chills, headaches, daytime drowsiness, mental fogginess, concentration problems, low libido, and an unstable yo-yoing of my alertness and emotional states. It wasn’t until day 14 that I began feeling consistently good on this diet.”
He also reported having severe problems with his skin:
“Perhaps the worst problem I experienced during the trial was dry skin. The problem appeared about 10 days into the trial and continued for the remainder of the trial. This left me feeling itchy all over my whole body at times, especially when I started to sweat.
The worst dry skin was on my hands. The skin on my fingers got so dry that it cracked and started to bleed in several places. Those cuts have been taking a long time to heal, although most of them are now fully recovered. I’d really like to know if this problem would correct itself over time, especially since the skin is one of the body’s major detox organs.”
I find this a very worrying indeed. Dry skin, that is cracked and bleeding, and poor wound healing… sounds like a nutritional deficiency to me, and not something to be taken lightly.
Do you really want to be following a diet that can cause such severe side effects?
Raw Food Diet Pros And Cons
What are the pros of a raw food diet?
- Nutrient dense foods
- Low in saturated fats
- Low in sodium
- High in potassium
What are the cons of a raw food diet?
- Limited variety
- Nutritional deficiencies – for example calcium, zinc, vitamin D and B12, iron, and protein
- Some of the phytochemicals are more easily absorbed when the vegetable is cooked, for example lycopene in tomatoes and carotenoids in carrots
- Higher incidence of amenorrhea in women
- Lower bone density in some cases
- Greater tooth enamel decay
If you are thinking of going on a raw diet, do make the effort to speak with a registered dietitian first to discuss your food plan.
They will be able to help you work on a sensible plan, and advise you on any nutritional supplements required.
How To Go Raw In A Healthy Way
So, can raw foods be incorporated into a healthy balanced diet?
Yes, without a doubt they can.
However, going 100 percent raw is dangerous, and excessive. As with all things, you should practise moderation.
To get the best from your diet try to include a combination of both raw and cooked foods.
Fresh vegetables, fruit, sprouts, nuts and seeds are good for you, but it isn’t necessary to exclude whole food groups, such as meat and dairy, or to avoid cooking your food to gain the benefit from what you’re eating.
How to safely include more raw foods in your diet:
- Go for sushi with raw vegetables and sheets of seaweed
- Eat whole nuts or seeds as a healthy snack
- Go for a breakfast smoothie of fresh fruit and spinach
- Make a salad with lots of crunchy raw veggies for lunch
- Choose foods that are as close to their natural form as possible
What are your thoughts on the raw food diet?