Hear me raw: A look at the raw food diet
We are diving into different raw food diets and this is what these meal plans look like.
The raw food diet (also referred to as “raw foodism”) is a dietary trend that Medical News Today defines as involving “mainly unprocessed, whole, plant-based, and preferably organic, foods. Three-quarters of the person's diet should consist of uncooked food.”
Eating raw is controversial lifestyle choice, especially when the subject of uncooked meat and other potentially life threatening raw food meals are brought into the argument. But raw foodies vehemently defend the diet. So what’s the truth?
Let’s take a look at the raw food diet and what it’s all about.
What does a meal plan on the raw food diet look like?
It’s important to explain that the raw food diet is split into a number of sub-diets of sorts. These are raw vegans (no animal products), raw vegetarians (no meat), raw omnivores (plant based and animal foods are both allowed) and raw carnivores (eat uncooked meat).
So basically, you can follow any of these major diet trends and make them raw food friendly by eliminating processed foods, and opting for organic, plant-based and (most of the time), uncooked produce.
A day on the raw food diet will generally involve eating very simple, fresh and organic meals that haven’t been processed. Expect to eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy-free milk varieties, dried fruit, uncooked beans and legumes and naturally occurring foods like seaweed. Depending on the type you follow, the diet can also include fish, eggs, meat and dairy products - all uncooked and unprocessed of course.
So what’s off the menu? You’ll have to say goodbye to everyday favourites such as pasta, coffee and tea, alcohol, cooked and processed foods and certain oils. Luckily, olive oil - as long as it is cold-pressed and raw - is fine to consume.
As you can see, the raw food diet is very limiting as much of what we eat today is processed without us even knowing it. It can be difficult to find products that aren’t, and products that are organic and unprocessed are often expensive and difficult to source. In addition, if you want to cook something, the only accepted way to do it on the raw food diet is to use a dehydrator - which is another expense.
Does only eating raw food have any benefits?
People wouldn’t follow the diets we profile on our blog if they didn’t have some benefit to them, and the raw food diet is no exception.
Raw food fans claim that following the diet has resulted in improved overall health, vitality, mental clarity and energy production. They also cite weight loss, clear skin, improved digestion and a healthier heart as a result of the lifestyle switch.
One of the benefits of a raw food diet is the higher levels of vitamins, nutrients and food enzymes in foods that are raw and unprocessed. As the process of cooking often destroys these, raw food is usually rich with them.
Like any plant-based diet, the raw food diet goes a long way towards reducing the risk of obesity, heart problems, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
Surely eating certain raw foods is dangerous?
Here we come to the controversial part. In short - yes, there are many foods that when eaten raw can be dangerous or even deadly. Many foods must be cooked before being consumed, as cooking them eliminates toxic elements.
Firstly, the obvious one - meat. Some hardcore raw foodies do not cook meat and will happily eat a steak raw. We do not condone this at all. When eaten raw, meat can kill you. Cooking meat kills off parasites, toxins and bacteria that can cause diseases like E. Coli and salmonella. Have you ever eaten a piece of undercooked meat and felt extremely unwell as a result? Imagine how bad you’d feel after an entire slab of meat.
Other food products like milk have to be processed to eliminate bacteria. Non-processed milk has been found to cause deadly strains of tuberculosis. Raw eggs can cause salmonella and certain vegetables, like parsnip, have naturally occurring toxic chemicals that need to be killed off. This video explains why:
While many raw food diet converts claim to experience many health benefits, others who have tried to diet often cite the opposite effect. Sluggish energy levels and gastrointestinal distress to name just a couple of side effects.
As La Española state with every diet trend we profile, we encourage you to do your own research before undertaking any controversial diet or lifestyle. And with one that has as many potential dangers as the raw food diet, please exercise extreme caution.