Raw foodists exist on a diet of unprocessed and organic plant based food, including fresh fruit, vegetables, beans, grains, dried fruit and seaweed. 75% of the diet needs to be uncooked, which means lots and lots of cold food.
The science behind the raw food diet
Raw foods are thought to contain food enzymes that are destroyed in the cooking process. These enzymes do most of the digestive work for us, so the body doesn't have to create its own cocktail of chemicals. Die-hard raw-foodies argue that cooked food takes longer to digest which allows partially broken-down fat, carbs and protein to seep into the arteries.
The benefits of the raw food diet
Devotees cite increased energy, clearer skin, improved digestion, weight loss and reduced risk of heart disease as the benefits of going raw. This sort of diet contains little or no saturated fat and it's very low in salt. Plus, it's high in antioxidants (that repair damage to cells), potassium and fibre.
The side effects of eating raw food
Starting a raw food diet is like going on a massive detox. Your body will go mental before everything calms down. It's like spring cleaning – everything looks worse before it looks better. As your body adjusts to eating raw food, toxins from previously digested processed foods start to be expelled from the body. This causes some nasty short term side-effects like headaches, nausea and depression.
The downside of only eating raw food
There are some raw foods that are actually dangerous to eat if you don't prepare them properly. Soy beans, kidney beans and fava beans can be poisonous if you don't rehydrate them for long enough. Starting a raw food diet isn't just about changing what you eat, it's about altering your lifestyle.
Much more emphasis has to be put on preparing meals in advance and ensuring that you are getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals. As meat and dairy are out of the question, you may need to take an additional iron and calcium supplement to avoid developing a deficiency.
Don't take the science at face value; although the nutritional content of some foods is lessened by cooking, some foods are actually made healthier when cooked. Research has shown that the amount of lycopene in tomatoes and carotenoids in carrots are greatly increased when heat is applied.
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