The Raw Food Diet: What Are The Benefits?
The raw food diet: What are the benefits?
Now that thanksgiving is over and we can look forward to the Holiday season, eating bad food and too much of it may be more prevalent. Most people think they gain weight between Christmas and New Year’s, But the fact is the majority of people gain weight between New Year’s and Christmas.
One of the newest diets to come along is the raw food diet which is the consumption of unprocessed, whole plant-based, ideally organic foods. In order to adhere to this diet, a minimum of three-quarters of the person’s diet should consist of uncooked food. If you can convert to this dietary regimen, not only will you become a lot healthier but you cannot help but lose weight in the process.
There are four types of raw foodism
• Raw vegetarians-only animal products consumed are eggs and dairy; most foods consumed are raw
• Raw vegans-no animal products consumed at all; most foods consumed are raw
• Raw omnivores-both plant based and animal based foods are mainly consumed raw
• Raw carnivores-meat products are eaten only raw
Raw foodism traces back to the late 1800,s when Maximillian Bircher-Benner, a doctor, discovered he could cure his own jaundice by eating raw apples. Thus began a series of experiments testing the effects of raw food on human health, and the diet has continued to evolve. Raw food hasn’t been cooked, processed, microwaved, irradiated, genetically engineered or exposed to herbicides or pesticides. It includes fresh fruits, berries, vegetables, nuts, seeds and herbs in their whole, natural state. Proponents say cooking obliterates most of the vitamins in food and nearly all of the immune-boosting plant nutrients. If you follow the raw diet plan you would consume only half the calories you would eat on a cooked diet. You feel very satiated on this diet while losing weight due to lower caloric intake.
How does the raw diet work?
Although you lose weight because fruits and vegetables dominate the menu, meal prep is quite tedious and special equipment, like blenders and food processors is required.
In spite of the various versions of the raw diet, 75 to 87- per cent of what you consume each day will be plant-based foods never heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. The only people who follow a 100 per cent raw diet are strict vegans. Most followers are vegan, but some choose to consume raw animal products, such as raw (unpasteurized) milk, cheese made from raw milk, sashimi, raw fish and certain kinds of raw meat. Of course you can easily replace milk with almond or rice milk. On the raw diet you eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, sprouts, seeds and nuts, including cashews, sunflower seeds and raw almond butter; some foods are marked as raw and sold in grocery stores, while others require home-prep. Grains are also OK, as are dried organic legumes (think lentils, chickpeas, adzuki beans and mung beans) eaten raw.
How much will it cost me?
You will have to invest in a juicer, blender and a dehydrator. Good quality products will run you about $1000. You will also be buying strictly organic food which costs more than the usual super market variety. But this is an investment in your health. Are you a Ford Focus or are you a Maserati? If you want a very healthy well-tuned body, then you only ingest the finest ingredients. You would never use cheap oil or low octane gas in your Mercedes.
What are the health benefits?
The raw food diet, which is heavy on fruits and vegetables but light on saturated fat and salt, is the best way to keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in check and to keep heart disease at bay.
There is no evidence that it helps Type 2 diabetes, but anything that can cause weight loss can only reduce diabetic symptoms and weight loss combined with exercise can totally reverse diabetes.
What are the health risks?
The best plan for a raw diet is really to go vegan. If you eat undercooked meat, raw fish, milk or eggs you could get food poisoning. Of course the raw food diet should never be given to infants and children who have not fully developed their immune systems and their digestive systems.
Raw food also acts as a detox for your whole body so you are constantly detoxifying yourself every day.
Nutritional value of the raw food diet
Fat. Thanks to the emphasis on fruits and veggies, you will likely stay on the low end of the government’s recommendation that between 20 and 35 per cent of daily calories come from fat. And the fats you do get will be the good unsaturated variety.
Protein. Green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and grains will provide you with most of the protein you will need.
Carbohydrates. No problem at all with all the fruit in the diet.
Salt. The majority of Canadians eat too much salt. On the raw food diet, however, you should have no trouble staying within the government guidelines. Those guidelines recommend a daily maximum of 2300 milligrams of sodium, but if you are 51 or older, black, or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, then the limit is 1500 milligrams.
Fiber.Getting the recommended daily amount, 22-34 grams for adults-helps you feel full and promotes good digestion. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans and legumes are generally high fiber, so you should easily meet your daily recommendations on the raw food diet.
Potasium. If you ingest enough potassium, this will counter the ability of salt to raise blood pressure, decrease bone loss and reduce the risk of developing kidney stones. The recommendation is 4700 milligrams a day and that is not easy to attain. Even though bananas are high in potassium, you would have to eat 11 of them a day. The majority of Canadians take in far too little potassium, however, on the raw food diet, the fruits and veggies will easily meet and even exceed your daily requirements.
Calcium. It’s essential not only to build and maintain bones but to make blood vessels and muscles function properly. Most of us do not get enough. Women and anyone older than 50 should try especially hard to meet the government’s requirement of 1000 to 1300 milligrams per day. This may be difficult on a raw food diet. A 2 cup serving of homemade sesame milk (sesame seeds blended into raw milk), for example, packs 70 per cent of the daily recommended amount of calcium. Other good sources include kale, dandelion greens, dried apricots, wheat berries and quinoa that’s been sprouted or soaked. Of course you can use or make yourself almond or rice milk.
Vitamin B-12. Adults should get a minimum of 2.4 micrograms of this nutrient every day, which is critical for proper cell metabolism. Getting enough can be difficult on a raw food diet, since B-12 is mostly found in animal products. Nutritional yeast will get you the minimum amount but I would recommend supplementation.
Vitamin D3. The raw food diet is no different than any other diet in this case. Most of your Vitamin D comes from sunlight and not from food so you must supplement with this nutrient in order to maintain your health during our fall and winter season.
Most people on this diet will need to supplement with Calcium, a high potency B-complex with at least 50mg of all the B’s, at least 2000 I.U’s of Vitamin D each day and of course Omega -3 fish oil which is a must.
The raw food diet is not an easy one to follow because it requires a lot of planning (shopping for all your ingredients) and creativity in preparation. It can be tedious because you are always blending foods to make sauces and smoothies and dehydrating ingredients to make crackers and “cookies”.
It is not convenient because raw dishes are not exactly the fare at most restaurants so you have to go to specialized vegan restaurants or carefully scan the menu for items you can eat. You must shop at organic or raw food grocery stores and meal prep can be quite lengthy. It will involve juicing, blending, sprouting seeds, germinating nuts and dehydrating and fermenting other types of food. Preparing apple-cinnamon maple-pecan granola, for example, is a 3 day ordeal that involves soaking raisins and dehydrating the entire mix.
However, the benefits are immense. You are always feeling full and you will almost never experience hunger on a raw food diet. Beans and other legumes, veggies and whole grains take longer to digest, meaning they will keep you fuller longer. You also have the power to increase your caloric intake and yet you will still continue to lose weight.
The beauty of this diet is all in the taste. You are eating the best foods with the best flavours that have not been adulterated or diluted. Try a crunchy, nutty buckwheat sunflower seed pizza crust, topped with herbed pine and nut macadamia cheese; its uncooked and made with a food processor and a dehydrator. For desert, try papaya-pineapple pudding topped with Tahitian vanilla sauce. Or vanilla cupcakes with lime frosting, which are made of almonds, macadamia nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, almond butter, dates and mashed avocado. You can prepare these treats in a food processor or a blender and then chill them in a fridge.
Of course, just like any diet, it is not complete without exercise. The more you move, the quicker you will see the pounds come off. Not only that, the combination of diet, exercise and of course a good night’s sleep reduces your risk of diabetes, heart problems and other chronic diseases. Just walking ½ hour ( brisk walking) a day 5 days a week along with a couple of days of muscle strengthening exercises will have you healthy, fit and looking and feeling great.
It may be a lot of work but don’t you think you are worth it?