Raw Food Diets

An interesting article regarding raw food diets appeared on the Web MD website. (The original article in its entirety can be found at: http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/raw-food-diet).   

Those devoted to rawism believe that food in its most natural state is healthiest.  This idea has gained popularity in recent years, but as with many “diets,” rawism brings good and bad news . 

Rawists eat uncooked and unprocessed food, believing that it is the most wholesome means of eating and significantly reduces the risk of disease.  There is truth to this philosophy, but this extreme measure is not necessary for optimal health.   Rawists prepare certain foods by soaking or dehydration.  Both of these methods of food preparation are widely practiced by non-rawists as well and are valuable tools.  However, both methods can rob some foods of nutrients, as can exposure to air.  Straining the pulp from macerated nuts to make milk takes away the fiber, detracting from the value of nut milks (almond and cashew). 

Eating close to nature is a plus as it is working toward the goal of eliminating processed food from the diet.  Eating raw is a great strategy for slimming and weight loss and will reduce the risk of many diseases such as heart disease and Type-II diabetes.  Plenty of evidence exists showing regular ingestion of raw cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, cabbage, etc.) provides excellent protection against all GI cancers.

This review also identifies the bad news associated with rawism.  Rawists, along with all other vegans, tend to be B-12 deficient and must also plan carefully to get an adequate supply of iron, zinc, calcium and a mixture of plant and animal omega-3 fats.  They can also be vitamin D deficient if they do not get sufficient sun exposure.  Supplements are a good idea for rawists .  Grains are often relied upon for supplying minerals and complex carbohydrates, but many grains must be cooked before eating.

All raw fruits and vegetables should be washed carefully to remove contaminants, harmful bacteria, and parasites.  This is not unique to rawists.  Eating a plant-based diet should contain a number of raw options:  salads, raw fruits and vegetables. 

It appears that rawism is an example of trading one extreme lifestyle for another.  It certainly provides a plant-based diet that is rich in many nutrients, and high in fiber, but could increase the risk of osteoporosis.

“Raw versus cooked” is likely not the critical issue as long as food is not over-cooked.  The real problem is commercial processing, and eating foods that have been “enhanced” with flavors, salts, and colors.  Gently cooking fresh foods, eating a wide variety of fresh foods, and getting sufficient exercise will support a healthy lifestyle.  Many foods are delicious raw and have added nutritional benefits in that state.  Others, however, benefit from cooking.  Eggs are much more easily digested when cooked.  Canned tomatoes have an anticarcinogenic benefit not found in fresh tomatoes.  Any extreme lifestyle is likely to have major drawbacks.  Choose what works for you within these bounds for a healthy lifestyle.