Is a Raw Food Diet Right for You?

If you think veganism is extreme, you may not have heard of “raw foodism” yet.

Vegans are on top of the herbivore food chain – they eat nothing but plants.  Cooked plants.  So there is really nothing to the rumor that vegetarian food is rabbit food.  More accurately, rabbit food can be considered “raw food.”

As the name implies, a raw food diet consists of eating foods that are unprocessed and uncooked.  Where temperature is involved, cooking should not exceed 115 degrees Fahrenheit.  Plant sources of food are the more logical choice, since a lot of them can be eaten reasonably well in raw form.  But raw foodism does not exclude animal sources from the food pyramid, so raw foodies cannot be considered extremely vegan.  While this diet generally rules out white and red meat, it does not necessarily skimp on sushi, or fish and sea food dishes cured in vinegar. Going Japanese is one way to introduce variety to raw food diet.

Raw food diet proponents argue that enzymes untouched by cooking enhance digestion, and therefore, nutrient absorption. They also argue that a lot of nutrients (especially among vegetables) dissipate at high temperatures, further reducing the amount of nutrients available for absorption by the body.  To keep these nutrients as intact as possible, food should be “uncooked.”  (“Uncooking” is light-hearted reference to raw food movement.)

For human diet to be considered balanced, three macronutrients should be present:  protein (animal-sourced or otherwise), complex carbohydrates, and unsaturated fat.  Dietary recommendations have varied throughout the years, and recent scientific findings continually alter the proper ratio of protein to carbohydrates to fat.  However they are formulated, carbohydrates should constitute most of the diet, followed by a generous helping of protein (not to exceed carbohydrates), and topped off with drops of unsaturated fat.  So before you embark on a smorgasbord of unprocessed foods, consider the following items that are usually found on a raw food dieter’s plate:

  • Raw fruits and vegetables, whether in salads or juices;
  • Nuts and seeds;
  • Roots and sprouts;
  • Herbs and spices;
  • Seaweeds and vinegar-cured sea foods;
  • Fermented foods such as miso, kimchee and sauerkraut;
  • Syrups (like maple);
  • Dried fruits and vegetables.

Complex carbohydrates are easily derived from vegetables and fruits, while protein can be derived from sea foods, along with plant-sources like pumpkin, sesame and hemp seeds.  Avocado and unprocessed olives are rich in unsaturated fat. At a glance, raw food diet satisfies all our macronutrient requirements.  It does hold promise as a viable dietary option, much in the same way that veganism does.

More cautious proponents say that raw food diet is only ideal for short-term courses like detoxification (two weeks or so).  Like veganism, very few practitioners of “uncooking” are 100% into the diet; the majority belongs to gradations in between.  People who incorporate 75% raw foods into their diet are considered raw foodies.  This is because some people may have cross-allergic reactions to raw foods and vegetables, reactions that go away when the offending foods are cooked.  Protein enzymes found in raw fruits and vegetables mimic protein enzymes found in pollens and weeds that cause seasonal allergies.  Obviously, individuals with cross-allergic reactions should seriously consult with a doctor before adopting a raw food lifestyle.

But if a person is in good health and presents no other foreseeable complications, raw foodism confers the following benefits:

  • An equitable amount of energy that results from increased absorption of nutrients by the body;
  • Clearer skin and greater mental clarity because of minimal toxic overload brought about by processed food;
  • Improved digestion due to gut-friendly enzymes preserved by “uncooking;”
  • Weight loss because of regulated calorie intake;
  • Resilient immune system that results from energy conserved.  Research supporting this claim says that eating cooked foods activates the immune system and puts it in red alert, overworking it, over time.

As with vegetarianism, raw foodism should be explored gradually.  In the long run, this is not just a diet, but a lifestyle.