Raw Food seems to be frequently spoken of amongst the health community but not all of us may understand exactly what it means or what a raw food diet entails.
Some of the benefits of eating raw food include:
- More nutrients than the average diet
- The protection of enzymes required for many functions in our bodies (1)
- Limited added chemicals to our food
- Affordable and convenient
- Increased number of antioxidants consumed (2)
- Reduced risk of a number of diseases (3, 4, 5)
- Increased Energy
- Natural detoxing
- Promotion of alkalinity (6)
Overall, eating a raw food diet aids our bodies to function as best they can by fuelling them with the best and most natural foods.
What is Raw Food?
The term ‘Raw food’ sounds quite self-explanatory but there is more to it than meets the eye.Raw foods are considered “live” food and includes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, roots and seeds. A raw food diet consists of organic, uncooked foods found in the earth as you would expect, however, these foods can then also be blended, chopped, juiced, pureed, frozen, dehydrated as well as cooked, though not above 37.5 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit).This is the body’s temperature, and the optimim tempterature for enzyme function. Above this temperature the enzyme structure begins to break down and are no longer effective (7).Heating up food above the body’s temperature denatures and deforms the enzymes, vitamins and minerals causing 100% loss of enzymes and at least 30% of the nutrients (8).
Cooking foods above the body’s temperature can also reduce the availability of many essential nutrients, particularly vitamin C which is sensitive to heat. (9).
Choosing organic can also increase the nutritional content of particular foods.Organic food is grown without the use of chemicals such as pesticides, which therefore yields nutritious chemical-free produce unlike non-organic produce (10). It may seem hard to get your hands on and unaffordable so if that is the case, try thoroughly washing your fruit and veg before consumption is a step in the right direction.
Why Eat Raw?
By eating raw foods, we can avoid not only the nasty chemicals that are abundant in processed foods but also make sure the food we eat contains its optimal amount of nutrients and active enzymes as they are not heated away (11). It provides us with the nutrients we need for optimum health and well being.
Nutrients are the building blocks of cells in our bodies and enzymes aid digestion and other bodily functions (12). Cooking food chemically changes the molecular structure of raw plants which may convert to toxins, carcinogens, mutagens and free-radicals associated with diseases like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and cancer (13).
Enzymes are responsible for every single action our body undertakes (14). When the body doesn’t have enough enzymes, it doesn’t have the energy to develop new cells, fight off infections, or digest your food. Lacking energy throughout the day can be a struggle for many people, who experience an overwhelming tiredness in the early afternoon and compensate for it by ingesting unhealthy energy drinks or caffeine or taking naps that aren’t really necessary. Fueling your body with a variety of raw, plant based foods can help keep energy levels steady throughout the day.
Many people following a raw food diet (that is, at least 75% of the diet coming from raw, whole foods), have stated an obvious increase in energy levels and including a good number of superfoods into your diet has been clinically shown to slow down the aging process (15). Raw foods also act as a natural detox, helping to remove the body of excess fat and toxins. And despite what many people think, eating a raw diet can save so much time and money, especially if you can grow produce yourself.
The large quantity and variety of organic foods consumed in a raw diet increase the amount of antioxidants supplied to our bodies which in turn is known to prevent and reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals (biological pollutants) and antioxidants in our bodies which creates a surplus of oxygen in our cell tissues causing the poor functioning of cells. Oxidative Stress has been found to be linked to Cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Cataracts and Atherosclerosis (16). Antioxidants are essential in reducing the risk of these diseases occurring as one of their functions is to fight off free radicals. The foods high in antioxidants include fruit, veg, nuts, green tea, herbs and spices (17).
The foods found in a raw food diet promotes alkalinity in our bodies while foods such as dairy, eggs, meat, most grains, and processed foods (with added salt) are acidic. Eating foods that are alkaline can help with weight loss, reduce the risk of arthritis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer (18, 19).
Honestly though, one of the best reasons for making the change to raw is TASTE. Once you get used to the practice of un-processing your food, you will start to gain such an appreciation of the distict flavours in each food. Did you know that taste buds are replaced every 3 to 10 days (20)? If you’re new to raw food and are craving a sugar rush, give it time. Often when people first start on a predominantly raw diet, a lot of raw desserts are consumed to satisfy the need for sweets. Gradually though, cravingsfor processed sugar disappear andare replaced with the desire for the natural sugars of fresh fruits. Raw sweeteners like unprocessed honey are ok, but try keep them to a minimum. It’s still sugar.
Going raw doesn’t mean you’ll be eating boring meals consisting of only salads and veggies, and you definitely don’t need to forgo treats altogether. There are thousands of delicious recipes out there so you can enjoy the sweet things of life without the need for refined sugars and artificial additives. Come along to a Raw Food Workshop and experience the change for yourself!