5 reasons why you should not switch to ‘raw food only’ diet just yet
The pluses of uncooked food are many but don’t convert before hearing out the pros and cons for this extreme step.
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A new fad I am hearing of these days is converting to an ‘all raw food’ diet.
Well, the benefits of eating raw foods are many – more nutrients, detoxing of the body, clearing up allergies, energy gain, immunity and memory boost, preventing blood pressure, arthritis and diabetes risks, and losing weight as many raw foods are low in calories, fat, and sodium, and high in fibre. Raw foods also help alkalize the body, reduce acidity and cut inflammation.
Plus they help avoid, or at least greatly reduce packaged and processed foods like bread, bottled condiments, cereals, crackers, cheese, refined oils and processed meats. And yes, your cooktop gets a rest on this diet as you'll mostly be eating raw fruits, vegetables, and grains.
No cooking? Sounds fun!: The raw veganism diet may make you lose out essential nutrients. (Photo: Reuters)
The pluses are many but don’t convert to 'raw food only’ diet just yet. Hear me out first as there are both pros and cons for this extreme step.
The challenge for anyone on a raw food diet is getting enough protein, vitamin B12 and iron, as these nutrients are typically found in foods that can’t be eaten raw, such as beans, whole grains, and lean proteins. So, you may run low on many essential nutrients and need to take vitamin supplements to make up for any gaps in your diet.
Secondly, the notion that when you cook food, you destroy its nutrients and natural enzymes is only partially true. The truth is that while some vitamins are activated when certain vegetables are cooked, others are more available in raw form.
Cooking actually enhances nutrients such as beta carotene and lycopene. For example, nutrient-dense spinach packs a lot of lutein and cooking these greens helps your body absorb it better. Lycopene in tomatoes actually becomes more available on cooking. Some cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens contain goitrogen compounds, which in excess can block thyroid function and contribute to hypothyroidism, but these are mostly deactivated by heat and cooking. Some research also shows that peppers and mushrooms become more nutrient-dense when cooked.
Nutrients in tomato and spinach are best for your body when eaten cooked. (Photo: Facebook/Martha Stewart)
Third, some foods become more digestible after cooking because the fibrous portion is broken down, making digestion in the gut easier. Those who have a sensitive digestive system and inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis, cooking more of your food might be a better option. If we’re unable to digest the vitamins and minerals in foods, we risk nutrient deficiencies and other illnesses. Also keep in mind that according to Chinese medicine eating too much raw or cold food can dampen the spleen, leading to symptoms like sluggish digestion, loose stools, and general digestive imbalance.
Fourth, raw-veganism is a highly restrictive plan that may be hard to follow for a long-term. Plus the level of effort required in big. It may seem easy to eat nothing but uncooked foods but the reality is very different. In fact, it takes a good deal of time and effort to prepare many foods to be eaten raw. You may need to ramp up your kitchen skills and buy from speciality stores for a wider selection than usual grocery. Eating out can be tricky too.
Eating only raw food can get boring, so start by slowly modifying your present diet. (Photo: Twitter/Teenage Peeps)
Fifth cooking food has a major advantage – it protects us from foodborne pathogens. So if you eat only raw then the risk of food poisoning goes up, especially if your immune system is weak.
My view is that there’s no need to go completely raw but instead follow a lifestyle that simply promotes eating more real foods in their natural state. I believe that to get the most out of your food, focus on eating about one-third of your food raw or uncooked. Regular vegetable juicing, a salad once a day and two raw fruits a day will easily help you reach this goal of 1/3 raw food in your diet.
Also, make sure to slowly transition from the diet you currently eat to one with more raw foods. Don’t rush into it, as you’ll probably then end up dropping it quickly too.
As a plus, adding in more high fibre foods and raw foods to your diet slowly will also lead to less digestive problems and cravings.