The raw food diet has gained renewed interest from people looking to clean up their eating habits and lose weight. You can eat tons of nutritious, whole plant-based foods and your stove gets a break. Sounds great, huh? Some raw food enthusiasts think cooking food makes it toxic. Still, others claim that the raw food diet benefits far outweigh the need to eat a hot meal.If you’re wondering what the benefits are, they include reduced headaches and allergies, increased memory, improved sleep habits, and even better diabetes control. It might surprise you that the raw food diet has been around for hundreds of years.
What Is a Raw Food Diet?
The raw food diet got its start in the 1800s when a doctor named Maximilian Bircher-Benner cured his jaundice by consuming apples. He began testing the effects of eating raw food to improve his health. The raw food diet is just what the name states: it’s a diet where all foods are consumed raw. This means no cooking, processing, microwaving, genetically modifying or using pesticides on the food. Nothing is pasteurized.
There are four types of raw food dieters out there. They are:
- Vegetarians—People who eat plant-based foods plus eggs and dairy products
- Vegans—People who eat no animal products
- Omnivores—These people eat plant-based foods and animal products
- Carnivore—A person who eats meat raw
All of these raw foodists, as they are sometimes referred to, eat most of their foods cold or below 116 degrees. The only way they heat their foods is with a food dehydrator. About 20 percent of their foods are heated to higher temperatures. Many people who eat raw foods are vegan, but some consume raw milk, raw fish, and a selection of raw meats.
Getting Started for Yourself
If you are interested in trying the diet to experience the raw food diet benefits, here are some tips to get started:
- Buy lots of organic, non-GMO fruits and veggies
- Don’t forget nuts, seeds, and raw nut butter
- Try raw grains such as oats
- Add fats such as extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed coconut oil, and raw coconut butter
- Drink fruit or vegetable juice and herbal tea
- Use a food dehydrator to make raw veggie chips
How Is the Food Prepared?
Since heating food to a high temperature is not allowed on this diet, raw food eaters have to find other ways to prepare their food. It may seem a little strange at first to soak and dry your food, but it’s no more work than using a crockpot or frying pan. Raw diet followers prepare their foods in the following ways:
- Grains and bean are soaked and sprouted
- Nuts are soaked
- Fruits and some veggies can be dried
- Fruits and vegetables can be juiced or blended for smoothies
You can eat whenever you want and as much as you want on a raw food diet. No weighing, measuring, or calorie counting here! The catch is that raw foods can feel a bit limiting at first. Meals for the day might include:
- Fruit with dehydrated seeds for breakfast
- Carrots and raw hummus for a snack
- Apple and walnut salad lunch
- Raw zucchini noodle pasta and raw tomato sauce for dinner
- Green smoothie for a snack
There are even dessert recipes. For instance, you can grind cashews and oats in a blender to make a dough, and then mix coconut oil, carob, and cocoa powder to make chocolate chips. Freeze the two mixtures and combine them to create chocolate chip cookies.
Things to Consider about a Raw Food Diet
The transition from a cooked diet to a raw diet can be jarring. Your calorie intake will be drastically reduced, even if you consume large quantities of food.
You may not get the amount of protein you need to maintain muscle mass without carefully planning your meals. Not cooking some foods may make them harder to digest. The initial cost of the raw food diet is high, as food dehydrators and blenders can cost hundreds of dollars. Organic produce can be costly too.
9 Raw Food Diet Benefits
Raw food diet benefits vary, but followers believe it leads to weight loss and an overall improvement in one’s health. Supporters of the diet will likely say it is an ideal lifestyle; but science has not validated these claims. However, many people swear by the diet, and point out the following ways they benefited:
Ask a raw foodist and he or she will tell you that cooking food destroys the nutrients and enzymes in it. Raw food diet benefits include keeping these enzymes intact. Science will tell you that the heat compromises the enzymes; but then again, so does stomach acid. Cooking the food can decrease water-soluble nutrients such as vitamin C and B vitamins, but it can increase the bioavailability of other nutrients. The raw food diet benefits people who are looking to eliminate foods that can contribute to chronic health problems, such as sugars and processed junk food
This is an attractive result of eating raw foods. You are almost assured of dropping pounds because the foods in a raw diet are low calorie. Eating 1800 calories is much more difficult when the bulk of it is coming from raw fruits and veggies. Nuts and seeds are calorie dense, but it’s more difficult to consume large quantities of these items.
People have lost large amounts of body fat on a raw food diet. According to one study, men lost 21.8 pounds on average and women lost 26.4 pounds on average after switching to a raw foods diet.
Get Re-acquainted with Food
Eating out or eating processed foods can make you forget where the food comes from. One of the best raw food diet benefits is preparing food or “cooking” for yourself. People who don’t mind spending time preparing meals can really get creative with their raw foods. You can get locally grown produce at farmer’s markets or grow a few veggies yourself.
Depending on your dining out habits before going raw, you may save a good amount of money on your food bill, since eating home-prepared meals is cheaper.
Identify Food Intolerances
One of the hidden raw food diet benefits is finding out if you have a food intolerance. The diet is void of allergens such as eggs, wheat, soy, sugar, and dairy. You may not know you have intolerances until you eliminate these foods. Some people reported that they feel great after these allergens were gone.
Taste Buds Change
As you get used to consuming nutrient-dense raw foods, your tastes change. You no longer crave sugar, caffeine or alcohol. In fact, those items may not even appeal to you. At the same time, you may suddenly find yourself appreciating the flavor of a tomato or blueberry as you never have.
Clean Eating Leads to Clean Living
When you’re consuming good food, it can affect other areas of your life. The increase in energy could prompt you to be more active. It could feel as though a brain fog has lifted. You will be motivated to pursue new interests. Being mindful of what you put into your body could also lead to changing your environment, career, or your relationships. Toxic is out.
Hunger Is Not an Issue
Believe it or not, veggies, legumes and beans, and whole grains make you feel full. Most of the foods are so low calorie that you can consume enough to satisfy your hunger without overdoing it on the calories. They also keep you feeling fuller longer.
This diet is naturally low in sodium, which can be good for people with hypertension.
It’s Easier on the Environment
A raw food diet benefits the environment. Fruits and veggies can have little-to-no packaging and you use less energy for cooking. If you eat locally grown produce, the transportation impacts are fewer as well. Growing that garden yourself can save countless trips to the grocery store.
How Easy Is It to Follow a Raw Food Diet?
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Conventional diets are based on convenience and whims. What is available? What do I feel like eating? Grabbing something to eat can take just a minute or two. Even preparing a whole meal can take less than five minutes. A raw diet can mean spending a lot of time prepping veggies and fruits, thinking about combinations of foods to prevent boredom and making sure you always have something ready to eat when hunger strikes.
The good news is you can find plenty of information and recipes from people online. Try forums, social media groups, and blogs. They have great tips for preparing and transporting the foods you’ll need. Another plus: you don’t need a microwave or stove to prepare your meals, so you can eat anywhere.
Raw foods, except for salads, are not on many restaurant menus, and this can put a damper on dinners out or grabbing a quick something to eat. If you don’t mind eating at home or having salads when you go out, then bravo. Just remember to bring your own salad dressing.
What Results Can You Expect?
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Raw food diet followers drop a significant amount of weight, namely, body fat. But that can take time. From the moment you start eat raw foods, you get the enzymes you need for bodily functions such as breathing, digesting food, and moving.
Applying heat destroys natural enzymes in food. Your body has to produce its own enzymes, which uses valuable energy. Some people have reported that their acne disappeared and they have stronger nails and hair when they started this diet.
You might even experience an anti-aging effect. Loads of energy, bright skin and a renewed vigor for life have all been reported benefits of the raw food diet. Finally, you’ll have a renewed appreciation for the textures and tastes of raw food.
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The raw food diet, like all diets, has its positives and negatives. On the positive side, it can give you more of the enzymes you need to function. It incorporates whole foods into your diet, and it can clear acne. It can also benefit your cardiovascular system, reduce diabetes risks, and give you more energy.
On the challenging side, the raw food diet can be a huge change if you’ve been cooking your foods for years. It also requires meal prep and planning, since raw food choices are extremely limited on restaurant menus. You may be at risk for not getting enough protein or other vitamins.
Advocates for the raw food diet don’t seem to mind soaking and sprouting their foods. They can also feel good that their foods are organic, non-GMO and are not processed. Give it a try: you might enjoy the adventure.
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