Raw food diet

History

Although raw food diets have gained attention recently, they have actually been around since the 1800s. Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a doctor from Switzerland, developed a raw food diet for himself in an attempt to cure his own jaundice. After discovering that eating raw apples cured his jaundice, he began experimenting with other raw food remedies.

In the 1930s there was more evidence that a raw food diet was important after it was noted people experienced dental problems after they abandoned raw food diets. More recently, a book was published in the 1980s, comprehensively describing various health benefits when consuming a raw food diet. There are several modern variations of the diet including raw vegetarianism, raw veganism and raw animal food diets.

Basic Principles

The foundation of the raw food diet is the consumption of uncooked, unprocessed foods. Furthermore, foods cannot be genetically modified or treated with pesticides or herbicides. Typically people on this diet consume 75 to 85 percent plant matter, which includes fruits and vegetables.

Other common foods include nuts, seeds and herbs, all of which must be consumed whole and in their natural states. Proponents of this diet believe that cooking or altering the foods eliminates many of the nutrients, including vitamins and antioxidants.

Many raw foodists are vegan or vegetarian. Vegans consume vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, legumes and sprouted grains. Vegetarians eat eggs, dairy products, and honey. It is important to note that all dairy products must be unpasteurized, and eggs must be consumed raw. A small population of raw foodists actually consumes raw animal products, including raw meats, shellfish and fish.

Some heat can be used in food preparation. For example, many raw foodists use a dehydrator, which dries foods with the help of heat and a fan. A dehydrator uses minimal amounts of heat but it should not exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Interestingly, experts warn that food should be heated to at least 118 degrees Fahrenheit in order to kill potentially harmful bacteria.

Other food preparation involves peeling, cutting, juicing and blending. Rice and other grains must be soaked overnight in water in order to promote digestibility. Regardless of the food, a raw food diet requires some effort to prepare a meal.

Considerations

People following the raw food diet believe that valuable nutrients are eliminated from food that is cooked with traditional methods. By consuming foods in their whole and natural states, raw foodists believe that the body is able to absorb more antioxidants and valuable nutrients. They believe that benefits of this diet include healthier skin, increased energy and decreased risk of disease.

However, the American Dietetic Association does not agree. Their research suggests that the body’s own enzymes break down these nutrients as soon as they enter the body. It has also been noted that certain nutrients can only be absorbed after cooking.

For instance, lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, is found in larger quantities and is more easily absorbed by the body after tomatoes are cooked. Conversely, some studies have concluded that certain raw vegetables, like cabbage and broccoli, provide significantly larger amounts of nutrients when consumed raw.

Further questions regarding the safety of consuming raw food must be carefully considered. Even though proponents of a raw food diet claim that cooking depletes valuable nutrients, eating some foods in their raw state can be dangerous.

Cooking eliminates many of the potentially harmful bacteria that could be found in raw food. Some common examples include salmonella and E.coli. You must carefully weigh the potential benefits of raw foods versus the potential harmful effects of bacteria, like E.coli.

Overall, a raw food diet can offer health benefits when foods are consumed safely. Preparation of foods can be a concern for some people as all foods must be cut, peeled, and then blended, juiced or dehydrated. Most people will lose weight while on this plan though it is not designed as a weight-loss diet.

In fact, many people choose this plan as a lifestyle change or as a way to help the environment. A raw food diet does meet many of the accepted dietary recommendations including protein, carbohydrates and fats. However, dietitians do recommend taking a supplement to support B12, vitamin D and calcium levels.

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