Chances are, you’ve heard about a raw food diet. Many believe it has the ability to greatly improve health, while others say that it might not be effective at all.
Here’s a look at both sides of the diet that may help you determine if it’s for you.
Why a Raw Food Diet Might Be For You
People often gravitate towards a raw food diet to help heal a health condition or to cleanse their body for a short period of time. They may enjoy such a diet for a couple of weeks, or opt to make it a way of life. Whether they have a serious ailment or simply ate too much junk food over the weekend, a raw food diet tends to be the solution for many people.
One case for this dietary lifestyle is made very clear in the instance of Janette Murray-Wakelin. In the early 2000s, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer and told she had just six months to live. Rather than face chemotherapy, which she felt would only make her weakened body worse, she embraced a raw food diet consisting mostly of carrots and apples. Healthy foods are better than putting terrible chemicals in the body, right? At least that was her reasoning — and guess what? It worked. It’s been more than 10 years and Murray-Wakelin is still alive and doing well. In fact, she still eats raw foods an has even participated in numerous marathons with her husband.
In addition to helping very sick people heal, a raw food diet is said to work well to boost overall health. From clearing up skin problems and increasing energy levels to removing toxins from the body and kicking off a weight-loss plan, this way of living can be beneficial.
Why? Advocates say it’s simple: eating this way (mostly fruits, sprouts, seeds, vegetables, and nuts) is eating as nature intended, void of processing and as pure –and therefore as healthy — as possible.
This also often means not cooking or baking these foods, as it’s believed that doing so tampers with a food’s nutrient value. As such, it’s considered unhealthy for the body. Microwaving and baking are typically not encouraged. However, some say that light heating/simmering until foods reach only a specific, low temperature is acceptable.
Why A Raw Food Diet May Not be for You
While it sounds logical that raw foods improve health — it certainly worked for Murray-Wakelin — it may not be for everyone. Those who don’t advocate such a diet aren’t saying to completely shun raw foods. They say they can still be eaten as a mid-day snack or as salad toppings, just not as an entire meal, day after day.
For example, it’s been found that cooking certain foods can actually bring about certain nutrients that are better for your body, something that isn’t always the case when ingested raw. Cooking tomatoes increases the concentration of lycopene, an antioxidant. Of course eating them raw is fine, but cooking them brings out their lycopene levels more than if you hadn’t.
Furthermore, for those with digestion issues, cooking foods is a way to enjoy them with more ease (less bulk) and comfort.
Interestingly, published studies have found that those who engage in a strict raw food lifestyle are often afflicted by vitamin deficiencies — contrary to thoughts that the diet provides a bevy of them. Usually, raw foodists tend to be low in B-12, zinc, vitamin D, and iron. As such, experts suggest they take the appropriate supplements.
Additionally, there’s the issue of food contamination. Researchers have discovered links between consumption of raw foods and food poisoning, which can be life-threatening. At the very least, you may end up with stomach discomfort and a need for antibiotics. In particular, experts have often warned about raw produce; foods like baby spinach and raspberries are often the causes of E.coli outbreaks. Sure, undercooked eggs and meats are of concern too, but a person on a raw foods diet typically consumes a plant-based diet, without straying from what they eat, which can up their chances of the aforementioned problems.
Finally, as is the case with dietary change, it may be difficult to continue a raw food lifestyle for long period of time. Especially compared to the typical Western way of eating, this diet is very limiting. Therefore, it can become taxing both physically and mentally. It’s not uncommon for sleep issues or headaches to creep in every so often.
The Bottom Line: Do What’s Right for You
Consider discussing your desire to switch to a raw food diet with your doctor or a nutritionist — or both. Be sure to take your unique needs into consideration, whether it’s previous medical conditions or future goals. Know that what works well for a friend may not be best for you, not because of the diet, but because your system is simply different. In that case, a strict raw food diet may not be ideal. However, you may find that its the best thing you ever did for yourself. In that case, go for it!
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