Call it a raw food diet or a ‘Raw Food Revolution’ but either way many people feel passionately about the benefits of eating nothing but whole and unprocessed foods.
This way of eating has actually been around since the 1800’s when people began to preach the benefits of eating mostly fruits and vegetables. There are many variations of raw food diets and not all of them are vegan. If you’re eating raw then you might be eating fermented foods, sprouted grains, seafood, seeds, and even dairy.
The basic rule of all raw foods diets is to avoid foods that have been pasteurized, homogenized, or produced with or contain pesticides, chemicals, or unnatural preservatives.
If you are following a raw food diet then you want to avoid some of the following foods:
The principles of the diet seem simple and with the increased demand for organic foods and farming, it’s easy to see why it’s surged in popularity over the past 10 years.
However, with any diet it can be hard to differentiate between antidotal and research-based evidence.
A quick Google search on the benefits of a raw food diet will bring up claims that it can cure everything from cancer to the common cold. You will see it touted as the ultimate diet to lose weight or even alleviate PMS symptoms. It’s commonly promoted as a cure for almost all inflammation and even enhancing one’s taste buds.
Much of this is antidotal; it’s hard to know what other factors contributed to these results. If someone was eating mostly processed foods with empty calories before switching to a raw food diet, then it would be expected that they lose weight. However, this might not be a healthy or long-term solution for success.
Another common claim of the raw food diet is that cooking foods breaks down important enzymes in food and the natural nutritional content in our foods that are vital to our digestion. This is not universally true. Although some water-soluble foods will decrease in nutrients when cooked, it is not a claim that is true for all foods. In fact, in some cases cooking foods can increase their nutritional availability to our bodies.
So, is there any science backing the benefits of a raw food diet? Yes.
Studies have shown that a raw food diet is associated with lowered cholesterol and a lowered risk of heart disease. There are also a handful of studies of the benefits of a raw food diet on animals that showed dramatic health benefits.
However, there is almost no research that looks into the risks or side effects of a raw food diet. Some research papers suggest that it is not recommended for long periods of time. Incorporating more fresh and raw fruits and veggies is almost always a good thing but as always, speak with your health care provider about any major diet changes.
Want to read more about popular diets? Read our article on the Ketogenic Diet next!