Raw Foods Diet – Fad or Fab?

It has been described as a trend, a fad, a weight loss plan and a detox. With all the buzz surrounding it in recent years it has been perceived as a temporary diet craze, much like the cabbage soup, no carbs, low fat, or no sugar diet. But the raw foods diet is far from any of those things.

The raw foods diet has been around since the 1880s. That’s when  Doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner, discovered he could cure his jaundice by eating raw apples. Consequently, he began a series of experiments testing the effects of raw food on human health, and the diet has continued to evolve.

Despite all the controversy surrounding this subject, there is compelling evidence that indicates a raw foods diet can prevent and reverse diseases, including cancer and diabetes. That’s why I feel it’s important to share this information with you and to offer this lifestyle choice as an alternative option to those of you on the journey to optimal health.

First, let’s define a raw food diet. The fundamental principle is – plant foods in their most natural state – uncooked and unprocessed – are the most wholesome for the body.  The staple of the raw food diet is the food hasn’t been cooked, processed, microwaved, irradiated, genetically engineered, or exposed to pesticides or herbicides.

Raw Foodists believe high heat leaches enzymes and vitamins that are critical for proper digestion. They say cooking obliterates most of the vitamins in food and nearly all of the immune-boosting plant nutrients. Therefore, a raw foods diet consists of unprocessed raw vegan foods that have not been heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Proponents of the diet assert that foods cooked above this temperature have lost their enzymes and thus a significant amount of their nutritional value and are harmful to the body, whereas uncooked foods provide living enzymes and proper nutrition.

I’m sure at this point you may be wondering about enzymes and have questions about what they are why they are so important to our health. So, let’s define enzymes. Enzymes are proteins used by the body to increase or decrease the speed of chemical reactions. Though there are many different kinds of enzymes, we commonly think of digestive enzymes because they make it possible for our body to break down and assimilate the foods we eat.

Enzymes are present in all living animal and plant cells. They are the primary motivators of all natural biochemical processes. Life cannot exist without enzymes because they are essential components of every chemical reaction in the body. For example, they are the only substance that can digest food and make it small enough to pass through the gastrointestinal mucosa into the bloodstream.

Plant enzymes are important because they are capable of digesting food before the body’s own digestive process begins. In other words, plant enzymes can enhance the digestion of food and the delivery of nutrients to the blood even if you have a compromised digestive system.

Staples of the Diet

Most followers of the raw foods diet are vegan, but some choose to consume raw animal products, like raw (unpasteurized) milk, cheese made from raw milk, sashimi, raw fish, and certain kinds of raw meat. Very few people follow a 100 percent raw diet.

Most people customize the raw foods diet to fit their personal preferences and their lifestyle. But it’s important for you to get the basics, so here are the staples of the diet:

  • Seaweed

  • Sprouts

  • Sprouted Seeds

  • Whole Grains

  • Beans

  • Dried Fruits

  • Nuts

  • No alcohol, refined sugars or caffeine

Other common choices include cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil; raw virgin coconut oil; and raw coconut butter. Freshly-squeezed vegetable juice and herbal tea are also staples.

Health Benefits

By placing an emphasis on plant foods, the diet is a rich source of the foods that are in turn the richest sources of valuable nutrients. Since the diet renounces most processed foods, it subsequently eliminates trans fat, and provides generally very low levels of saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. Instead, it provides nutrient-dense foods, rich in fiber.

Some of the health benefits associated with the raw food diet include weight loss, more energy, clear skin, improved digestion and improved overall health.

Health Concerns

Just like proponents cite the health benefits of following a raw foods diet, there are opponents who cite health concerns. The primary concern is the potential risk for nutritional deficiencies, including vitamin b12, iron, zinc, magnesium and omega three fatty acids. These are common concerns for vegan/vegetarian diets. As a countermeasure to this risk, raw foodists are encouraged to eat a variety of foods, and if necessary supplement the diet with a multivitamin.

In conclusion, if you are interested in trying this lifestyle, I encourage you to do your homework. There is an extensive body of research available on this topic, so you can make the best decision for you. If I had to offer some final tips, I’d say: ease into it -don’t try to go 100% raw, start at 50%. Find foods that you like; eat often so you don’t get too hungry between meals. Remember, you’re consuming less calories so you can eat more. Eat your colors to ensure you get your nutrients.

Question: What are your thoughts about a raw foods diet?

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