A raw food diet involves consuming only foods that have not been cooked or processed. Proponents believe that cooking destroys enzymes and vitamins in foods, and that eating raw fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts provides the body with the nutrients it needs to be healthy. A raw food diet is typically high in natural sugar from fruit and low in the added sugar found in many processed foods, making it an attractive option for people who are trying to lose weight or manage their blood sugar levels. It is also generally lower in sodium than a typical Western diet, which may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
A Raw Food Diet isn’t for Everyone
A raw diet can be challenging to follow long-term, and it can lead to nutrient deficiencies if not done correctly. It is essential to have a well-stocked pantry of staples like beans and whole grains that are soaked, sprouted or dehydrated before eating them to ensure the body receives all of the necessary nutrients, such as protein, calcium, magnesium, iron, folic acid and zinc. It is also important to consume plenty of fresh produce, including leafy greens and dark berries. In addition, a raw food diet can be incredibly expensive, especially when purchasing organic ingredients and investing in kitchen appliances like juicers and dehydrators.
Despite these concerns, some experts remain advocates of the raw food diet. For example, a 2019 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine compared 18 people following a raw food diet to 18 people who followed a typical American diet. After 3.6 years, the researchers found that those who followed a raw food diet experienced lower body mass indexes and waist circumferences than their counterparts.
In addition, a raw diet is likely to be low in fat and sodium, which may reduce the risk of certain diseases linked to these factors, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and diabetes. Some people may also find that a raw food diet is easier to digest than a typical American diet, which could be beneficial for people with gastrointestinal issues.
Other concerns about a raw food diet include the risk of contamination from bacteria and viruses that are not killed by cooking, and the possibility of missing out on beneficial compounds in foods, such as lycopene in tomatoes or beta-carotene in carrots. Also, eating a raw diet would require avoiding foods that cannot be eaten in their uncooked state, such as potatoes (inedible in the raw form) and rhubarb (inedible in the raw state).
The bottom line is that a raw food diet is not right for everyone, and it can be particularly challenging to maintain long-term. It is recommended to consult with a registered dietitian to make sure that you are getting all of the nutrients your body requires and that you are not at any increased risk for food-borne illness. Moreover, eating a raw diet can be difficult for pregnant women, children, seniors and those with weak immune systems.