The idea of living off raw foods is as old as humans. Early human civilizations had nothing but the raw food diet. In recent years, people have come to see the raw food diet is the healthiest way to eat.
It is not that the raw food diet is just another fad diet. The raw food diet has more to do with a rather age-old belief that our bodies are best suited to eat primarily things like unprocessed vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. The raw food diet does not demand that you give up eating foods you are already accustomed to, it merely relies on not processing that food with cooking and other unnatural procedures.
You may think of the raw food diet as being similar to veganism. Like the vegan diet, the raw food diet involves eliminating all meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs. More than that, the raw food diet removes anything that has been processed, especially foods that include ingredients derived from meat or other animal products.
Plenty of people have taken in some form of a raw food diet for short periods of time. There are a lot of so-called fasting diets that require you to eat only raw foods for a limited period in order to lose weight. But the raw food diet demands that you adjust to living off raw foods.
How healthy is the raw food diet? How do I get proper nutrition from a raw food diet? Are the benefits and drawbacks to the raw food diet? This guide will give you the basic information to begin exploring if a raw food diet might work for you.
What Is the Raw Food Diet?
The raw food diet sometimes referred to as raw veganism, consists of eating nothing but raw, unprocessed foods. While most versions of the raw food diet are strictly plant-based, there are exceptions that we will talk about below.
Raw food is defined as any food that is not heated over 104-118 degrees F. Raw foods are not refined, pasteurized, or treated with any chemical additives.
Rather than cooking, raw food diets use techniques like juicing, blending, dehydrating, soaking, and sprouting. Relying on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, foods may be blended and altered through natural techniques, but they cannot be cooked or processed in the manner of store-bought processed foods.
Most raw food diets are entirely plant-based. It is possible to adhere to a raw food diet while eating eggs and dairy. Even more rare are raw food diets that include some raw fish and meat. Obviously, it can be potentially dangerous to ever consume raw meat, fish, and eggs.
People who live on a raw food diet are not naïve about nutrition. Many raw food diets allow for supplements in order to make sure people are getting proper nutrition. The raw food diet is not a starvation diet.
People who embrace the raw food diet believe that it is inherently unhealthy to cook or process foods. Cooking and processing foods destroy things like natural enzymes necessary for life. Cooking reduces nutrient content. Some even believe that cooking processing foods reduce the "life force" found in foods in their natural state.
People who follow the raw food diet believe it provides numerous health benefits. From weight loss to extend your life, adherents to the raw food diet believe it is the healthiest way to live and eat.
What to eat
The general rule for a raw food diet is to make sure that at least 75 percent of what you eat is raw. Most raw food diets consist of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Some grains and legumes will work for the raw food diet since they can be eaten raw and unprocessed. Grains and legumes can be prepared simply by soaking them.
- All fresh fruits
- All fresh vegetables
- Raw nuts and seeds
- Raw grains and legumes (soaked and/or sprouted)
- Dried fruits and dried meats
- Nut milk
- Raw butter
- Cold-pressed olive oil and coconut oil
- Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut
- Raw eggs and dairy (require special care)
- Raw meat and fish (require special care)
Foods to avoid
- Cooked fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains
- Baked goods
- Roasted nuts and seeds
- Refined oils
- Table salt
- Refined sugar and flour
- Coffee and tea
- Chips and other processed snack foods
- All processed foods
As you can see, the raw food diet is restrictive. Adherents insist that the raw food diet provides maximum health benefits and cooking and processing foods destroy these benefits.
Raw Food Diet Sample Menu
There are entire web pages devoted to raw food diet and menu plans. They all provide variations of similar things. A typical daily menu would consist of the following:
Smoothie made with fruit, rolled oats, chia seeds, raw nuts, and raw almond butter, which is made with raw almonds and not roasted almonds.
Lettuce wraps stuffed with raw sprouted lentil patties, sprouted quinoa, diced peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocado.
As you can see, there are many choices available for a raw food diet. This one example provides a wide variety of flavors and textures. It is easy to imagine the raw food diet being little more than simple fruits and vegetables, when in fact, there are recipes and meal plans that turn raw foods into delicious meals.
Most importantly, these raw, unprocessed foods provide a wide spectrum of nutrients. This is an important consideration. A variety of foods makes the most nutritious meal plans.
Raw Food Diet Pros and Cons
The pros and cons of the raw food diet come down to nutrition and general health. There are distinct advantages to the raw food diet, but there are things you need to be aware of before taking this diet on as a lifestyle.
Nutrition Pros and Cons
Raw fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients and fiber. What is more, relying on raw foods tends to diminish or eliminate processed snack foods. You cut down on added sugar. The net gain in nutrition is substantial.
With the raw food diet, you are almost certain to lose weight. You simply do not consume anywhere near the number of calories as you do with a conventional diet.
On the other hand, the raw food diet can dramatically decrease the number of calories you consume. While this may be beneficial in the short term, it can lead to a calorie deficit, and you may be lacking some essential nutrients.
This is partially due to the fact that fruits and vegetables cannot provide you with all the nutrients you require. They simply do not contain everything you need to be healthy.
What is more, cooking increases the digestibility of many foods which makes essential nutrients more readily available to the body. In the case of some fruits and vegetables, you actually get fewer nutrients by eating them raw.
Cooking also releases antioxidants that you will not get by eating these foods raw.
Health Pros and Cons
A raw food diet can substantially reduce your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This means better heart health and more stable blood pressure.
People on the raw food diet have less body fat and lower body mass index (BMI). This also increases the health of your heart.
On the other hand, a raw food diet has been shown to lead to too little body fat, so little that it is unhealthy. This is known to have negative effects on menstruation and can lead to other health problems.
Another problem with the raw food diet is that it can lead to deficiencies of vitamin B-12 and Vitamin D. This can lead to serious health problems.
There are trade-offs for any diet. The raw food diet does provide numerous health benefits, but you need to make certain you are getting all the nutrients your body requires. Vitamin and nutrition supplements may become necessary if you choose to live on a raw food diet.
Health Benefits of Raw Food vs. Vegan Diets
As noted above, the raw food diet shares some affinities with the vegan diet. Both largely or completely eliminate all animal products from your diet. The crucial difference lies in the fact that a vegan diet still allows you to cook your food, and this increases your options.
The vegan diet allows for, and encourages, eating things like processed food made from soybeans. Tempeh and tofu are filled with proteins and amino acids. Foods like these easily compensate for things you may be lacking by not eating meat, dairy, and eggs.
The raw food diet does allow for some legumes, nuts, and seeds, but the raw food diet does not allow cooking or processing in any way. There are some proteins and amino acids that simply will not be rendered available to your metabolism in the raw form. With the raw food diet, you are much more likely to need supplements, but even these will not provide all the protein and amino acids you require.
However, you can include things like dried meats in the raw food diet. These may contain everything you need to remain healthy, indeed, to thrive. Some egg products can also round out your nutritional needs.
The real difference in maintaining proper nutrition and health with both the vegan diet and the raw food diet is being vigilant about what you eat. Both diets require some research into the ways specific types of foods provide nutrients. From this, you can determine a reasonable menu plant that includes all the nutrients you require in a variety of foods.
Raw Food Precautions
Since we are generally used to cooking most of our food, even many of our fruits and vegetables, there are some things you need to be aware of before embarking on a raw foods diet. Many common foods carry risks when not properly cooked. Here is a list of common foods and things you should watch out for:
The greens of buckwheat are toxic. If they are juiced or eaten raw than they can be toxic especially for people with fair skin. Buckwheat contains a chemical called fagopyrin which triggers photosensitivity and other skin problems.
These contain a potentially toxic chemical called phytohaemagglutin. Raw kidney beans can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
These contain a toxin called canavanine.
Some types of cassava are toxic, including cassava flour.
These contain toxins that can cause neurological weakness, especially in the lower limbs.
These contain a chemical produced by certain plants as a defense mechanism. This chemical is toxic to humans.
Raw eggs can contain salmonella which causes a serious and potentially fatal form of food poisoning.
Any raw meat may contain dangerous bacteria, parasites, and viruses.
Raw milk may contain a bacterium called Mycobacteria bovis. This can cause non-pulmonary tuberculosis.
In addition to these potential hazards, you should also remember that many vegetables contain vitamins and nutrients that cannot be made available to our bodies without cooking them.
Wrapping things up
As people have become increasingly aware of what they eat and the impact of their eating practices, they began to think more seriously about alternatives to the conventional diet. Vegetarian diets have become largely mainstream in the last several years, and some people are taking further steps toward regulating what they eat. The raw food diet is one such diet that fits this pattern.
More than the vegan diet, the raw food diet eliminates all cooked and processed foods. The raw food diet consists primarily of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. These things are eaten either completely raw or with no more processing than soaking or juicing. Those who have switched to a raw food diet insist that this is the healthiest way to live.
While there are certain meats and dairy products that would conform to the raw food diet, it is primarily a vegan and vegetarian way of living. Meats, dairy, and egg products can be unsafe if not properly cooked.
There are health benefits to the raw food diet. You are sure to lose weight with the drastic decrease in calories. The raw food diet can be good for your heart health. However, it is important to make certain you are getting all the nutrition your body requires, and this can be challenging with the raw food diet.
With some research and planning, the raw food diet is a viable way of eating and living.