HEALTH BENEFITS OF RAW FOOD
There are so many fad diets out there, and it seems like new ones pop up all the time. But while some diets are just a means to lose weight as quickly as possible, others are lifestyle changes that aim to improve overall health in the long run. The raw food diet falls into the latter category.
THE RAW FOOD DIET
The raw food diet is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: one that includes only foods that have not been cooked. For these purposes, food is considered “raw” if it has never been heated to above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Raw foodism also typically prohibits foods that are processed or pasteurized, though fermented foods are allowed. Not surprisingly, most adherents to the raw food diet are also vegan, or at least vegetarian – however, some raw foodists do consume raw meat, fish, and eggs (though this is generally discouraged from a food safety standpoint).
JUSTIFICATION FOR THE RAW FOOD DIET
The argument for a raw food diet is based on what cooking food actually does to it (other than make it taste different): proponents of the diet argue that heating food destroys its enzymes and kills some of the nutrients, making it less beneficial to eat. First, the body needs various enzymes to function, including to digest food and absorb nutrients. Though it’s not the only source, food contains enzymes, and cooking it destroys some of them. Eating cooked food, which has fewer enzymes, means the body will need to produce more enzymes on its own. Further, in the absence of some of the enzymes from food, the body will absorb fewer of the nutrients consumed.
Second, when foods are cooked, they lose some of their vitamins and minerals. How much is lost varies by nutrient and depends on the cooking method, but if food has been cooked, you can assume it’s lost at least ten percent of some of its nutrients; in more extreme cases, 50 percent can be lost. Foods that have never been heated are more nutritious because they maintain all their vitamins and minerals.
In addition, those who adhere to a raw food diet see it as keeping food in its most natural form and reflecting what we would eat in the absence of modern technology. Skipping cooking also has the environmental benefit of reducing the amount of energy needed to eat.
BENEFITS OF THE RAW FOOD DIET
Following a raw food diet means getting more enzymes and more nutrients, but what are the exact health benefits? The raw food diet boasts many of the same benefits as other healthy diets, including weight loss, body fat loss, increased energy, improved sleep, clearer skin, stronger hair and nails, more mental clarity, improved digestion, lower cholesterol, fewer muscle aches, less joint pain, and reduced hormonal imbalance. Given the foods typically consumed by those on a raw food diet, these benefits should come as no surprise.
Most people eating only raw foods consume significantly more fruits and vegetables than the average Westerner. These foods contain high levels of a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, making raw foodists less likely to experience nutritional deficiencies, which cause all kinds of health problems. Raw foods also cause less inflammation than processed foods, promoting better gut health and improved digestion.
Weight loss is one of the raw food diet’s most popular benefits, and it happens in several different ways. Because the fruits and vegetables that make up a significant portion of this diet have so much fiber, they fill you up faster and lead to eating less. They also have relatively low calorie density, meaning a diet full of them is likely to lead to a caloric deficit. Lastly, raw food takes more energy to chew and digest than cooked food does, meaning some of the calories consumed are almost immediately burned.
Not sure you’re ready to commit to a 100% raw diet? Even if you just replace a portion of the cooked or processed foods in your diet with raw foods, you’ll start to see some of the benefits.