Get the “Skinny” on Raw Food Diet

Depending on the source, a raw food diet is either a path to perfect health or to serious undernourishment. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Devotees insist that a diet consisting mainly of uncooked, unprocessed plant foods leads to a leaner body, clearer skin, and higher energy. They also believe it cuts the risk of disease.

Depending on the type of lifestyle and results desired, raw food diets may include a selection of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, meat, and non-pasteurized/non-homogenized dairy products (such as raw milk, raw milk cheese, and raw milk yogurt).

But what exactly is a raw food diet? Is following a raw food diet healthy? Can anyone become a raw foodist? Read on for some answers.

What Is a Raw Food Diet?

The fundamental principle behind raw foodism, also sometimes called rawism, is that plant foods in their most natural state – uncooked and unprocessed – are also the most wholesome for the body. The raw food diet is a lifestyle choice. It is not a weight loss plan. 

Sticking to a raw food diet isn’t easy. Most raw foodists spend a lot of time in the kitchen peeling, chopping, straining, blending, and dehydrating. That’s because the diet is typically made up of 75% fruits and vegetables. Staples of the raw food diet include:

  • seaweed
  • sprouts
  • sprouted seeds
  • whole grains
  • beans
  • dried fruits
  • nuts

Alcohol, refined sugars, and caffeine are taboo.

Most raw foodists are raw food vegans, who eat no animal products, but some do eat raw eggs and cheese made from raw or unpasteurized milk.

How Do Raw Foodists Prepare Meals?

Raw foodists do not cook using a traditional stove or oven. They use food dehydrators that lend crunch to vegetables and cookies. Food dehydrators also dry out fruits for fruit leather and other raw food recipes.

Try surfing the Internet for raw food recipe ideas. Web sites, including recipezaar.com, welikeitraw.com, and living-foods.com, all have collections of raw food recipes.

The dehydrator works with heat, but temperatures cannot be higher than 115 to 118 degrees. Raw foodists believe high heat leaches enzymes and vitamins critical for proper digestion. The American Dietetic Association challenges this assertion. It says the body — not what goes in it — produces the enzymes necessary for digestion. The ADA also says cooking food below 118 degrees may not kill harmful, food-borne bacteria.

Raw vs. Cooked

Medical literature on the raw food diet is scant. Research tends to focus vegetarianism and veganism and the health benefits of a plant-based diet, among them lower cholesterol and better glucose levels.

A few studies do appear to back up the belief that cooking vegetables tends to kill important nutrients.

One showed that eating raw, cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale) may reduce the risk of bladder cancer. Researchers noted that cooking cruciferous vegetables robs them of their isothiocyanates, agents that alter proteins in cancer cells. They found that even a few helpings a month of raw crucifers seems to lower the risk.

Another study that reviewed findings of about 50 medical studies on the raw versus cooked debate showed that eating raw vegetables helps reduce the risk of oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal, esophageal, and gastric cancers.