If you’re a health enthusiast, you’ve probably heard of the raw food diet. Raw foodists eschew cooked food for fresh, raw fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts and seeds. Many who follow the raw food lifestyle are also vegan, but some choose to include unpasteurized milk and certain types of raw meat.
So what’s the idea behind only consuming raw food? What are the advantages of following a raw food diet? Are there disadvantages?
The Roots of Raw Foodism
Way back in the late 19th century, a Swiss physician named Maximilian Bircher-Benner discovered that when he ate raw apples, his jaundice subsided. This got him wondering what other benefits there might be to consuming raw food. As the head of a sanatorium, he was in an ideal position to explore the benefits of such a diet. To his patients, he prescribed a strict raw food diet, plenty of rest, and physical activity. Word of the efficacy of his treatments spread, and he soon counted captains of industry, renowned artists, and members of the ruling elite.
Benefits of the Raw Food Diet
Proponents of the raw food diet claim an impressive list of benefits, and many of them are difficult to dispute. It’s certainly true that most raw foods are quite low in calories, cholesterol, fat, and salt. Raw foodists often report very respectable weight-loss figures, and a raw diet is a nearly foolproof way to lower cholesterol.
Because raw food is so low in sodium and saturated fat, it’s excellent for heart health. Leafy greens and other vegetables are also packed with dietary fiber, crucial for maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Raw foods are generally rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients such as carotenoids, which are essential for healthy function in every system of the human body.
Raw foodists can also claim to be doing more than their share for environmental quality. Industrial agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than cars, trains, and planes put together, so by excluding most meats from their diets, those who stick to raw food are also declining to contribute to this environmental threat.
Cons of Raw Food Diets
The raw food diet is certainly rich in many crucial nutrients, but like strict vegans, raw foodists may have a tough time getting a few key nutrients.
Vitamin B12 is typically found in animal products such as meat and milk, so raw foodists should be careful to supplement their diets with nutritional yeast or certified raw B12 supplements.
Those on the raw food diet who avoid milk may also want to pay attention to their calcium intake. Homemade sesame milk, soaked quinoa, kale, and dandelion greens are excellent raw sources of calcium.
For those who consume raw meats of dairy products, caution is urged. Raw dairy and meats can contain harmful pathogens that can make you quite ill. While the idea that cooking kills nutrients has some truth to it and is a central tenant of the raw food lifestyle, if you’re going raw, you may want to consider cutting out animal products altogether, just to be on the safe side.
You Don’t Have to Go Raw to Enjoy the Benefits of Raw Foods
Hats off to raw foodists: that’s not an easy path to follow. But, even if you can’t muster the self-discipline to completely exclude cooked foods from your diet, you may still want to consider including more raw foods on your dinner plate. Raw foods are full of the nutrients that many of us don’t get nearly enough of, plus they’re delicious. You can’t go wrong with a plate of fresh greens, sliced cucumbers and hummus, or a king-sized serving of carrot sticks.
[Photo Credit: rawfoodlife]