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Last updated on April 26, 2011 at 12:00 am EDT by in5d Alternative News
By Cathy Wong, About.com Guide
is the Raw Food Diet?
The raw food diet is a diet based on unprocessed and uncooked plant
foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, sprouts, seeds, nuts,
grains, beans, nuts, dried fruit, and seaweed.
Heating food above 116 degrees F is believed to destroy enzymes in food
that can assist in the digestion and absorption of food. Cooking is
also thought to diminish the nutritional value and "life force" of food.
Typically, at least 75% of the diet must be living or raw.
What are the Benefits of the Raw Food Diet?
Proponents of the raw food diet believe it has numerous health
Improved skin appearance
Reduced risk of heart disease
The raw food diet contains fewer trans fats and saturated fat than the
typical Western diet. It is also low in sodium and high in potassium,
magnesium, folate, fiber and health-promoting plant chemicals called
These properties are associated with a reduced risk of diseases such as
heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. For example, a study published in
the Journal of Nutrition found that consumption of a raw food diet
lowered plasma total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations.
What are the Guidelines of the Raw Food Diet?
1. What can I eat?
Unprocessed, preferably organic, whole foods such as:
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Unprocessed organic or natural foods
Freshly juiced fruit and vegetables
Young coconut milk
At least 75% of food consumed should not be heated over 116 degrees F.
2. What cooking techniques are used?
Specific cooking techniques make foods more digestible and add variety
to the diet, including:
Sprouting seeds, grains, and beans
Juicing fruit and vegetables
Soaking nuts and dried fruit
3. What equipment can I use?
A dehydrator, a piece of equipment that blows air through food at a
temperature of less than 116 degrees F.
A good-quality juice extractor for juicing fruit and vegetables
A blender, food processor, or chopper to save time
Large glass containers to soak and sprout seeds, grains, and beans
Mason jars for storing sprouts and other food
Some people experience a detoxification reaction when they start the
raw food diet, especially if their previous diet was rich in meat,
sugar, and caffeine. Mild headaches, nausea, and cravings can occur but
usually last for several days.
The raw food diet may not be appropriate for certain people, such as:
Pregnant or nursing women
People with anemia
People at risk for osteoporosis - A Washington University study found
that people following a raw food diet had lower bone mass. Bone
turnover rates, however, were similar to the group that ate a standard
Considerable time, energy, and commitment is needed to be healthy on
the raw food diet. Many of the foods are made from scratch. Some
ingredients may be hard to find, such as Rejuvelac (the fermented
liquid drained from sprouted grains), sprouted flour, date sugar, young
coconut milk, carob powder and Celtic sea salt.
People must be aware that certain nutritional deficiencies can occur on
the raw food diet, including:
B12 – The Journal of Nutrition study found that a raw food diet
increased levels of homocysteine due to vitamin B-12 deficiency.
Critics of the raw food diet say while it’s true that some enzymes are
inactivated when food is heated, it doesn’t matter because the body
uses its own enzymes for digestion. In addition, cooking makes certain
phytochemicals easier to absorb, such as beta-carotene in carrots.
Another critique is that the human body has changed in response to
eating cooked foods. Some of these changes are that are jaws and teeth
have become smaller, our stomachs have shrunk, and our small intestines
have grown longer, lengthening the digestive surface area.
According to other alternative diet theories, such as macrobiotics,
Ayurveda, and traditional Chinese medicine, a raw-only diet may not be
appropriate for people living in colder climates or for people with
certain constitutional types.
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