As we continue our new diet trend series, we take a look at “Diet #2” that was covered at the 9th Annual Nutrition and Health Conference, held in Boston, MA, and outlined by Maya Shetreat-Klein, MD: the Raw Food Diet.
It’s no secret or surprise . . . healthy animals in the wild retain normal weight by eating natural foods that are produced by the earth, not by chowing down on some Chef Boyardee or frozen, processed foods. So, by following what our outdoor companions eat, it makes sense that we would lose excess weight and become healthier overall. That’s the premise behind the raw food diet, which has recently been gaining popularity all across the nation.
What Exactly IS a Raw Food Way of Life?
The most important takeaway for a successful raw food diet is, well, to eat raw food. The main components of a raw diet include beans, fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, coconut milk, nuts, seeds, and purified water. Heating up food through microwaves or other means is a big no-no. When a food does have to be heated, it’s recommended to keep its temperature below the 118 degree Fahrenheit threshold. Why? Because many raw foodists believe that important and unique enzymes that aid with digestion lie within each type of food, and heating these foods up actually destroy the enzymes. Not only that, but heating food above this temperature causes chemical changes that create acidic toxins, including carcinogens, mutagens, and free radicals.
The Four Corners of the Raw Food Movement
There are four broad varieties of the raw food diet, each with its own appeal to certain lifestyles. Raw vegetarians are similar to regular vegetarians in that the only animal products consumed are eggs and dairy, and raw vegans avoid all animal products and stick with mostly raw, earthly foods. Fans of eating meat could become a raw omnivore, eating both raw plant-based and animal-based foods; and those seeking a much more primal diet can opt for the raw carnivore version, which focuses on eating only raw meat.
A huge emphasis on any type of raw food diet is placed on what are called “superfoods.” These are foods such as cranberries, blueberries, red grapes, mango, watermelon, tomato, grapefruit, walnuts and seeds that have enormous potential benefits. After being on a raw food diet, many individuals experience things such as:
- Increased mental alertness
- Clearer skin
- Increased energy
- Significant fat loss
- Improved digestion
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Lowered cholesterol
Shetreat-Klein also reported on statistics that showed a raw food diet could improve one’s struggle with Fibromyalgia, and that it could even reduce depression and anxiety.
As with everything else, there are some things to consider before making the plunge into a raw food diet. Some nutritionists and dieticians warn against consuming raw foods such as buckwheat, eggs, peas, kidney beans, meat, and milk because of their potential to introduce parasites, viruses, and toxicity into the body. Additionally, there are a few downsides to beginning a raw food regimen. Among the most noted cons are:
- High maintenance and organization
- Difficult to stay motivated, especially amongst peers
- Requires lengthy preparation
- May be expensive
- Digestive problems (more than just the increased gas that comes with changing to any diet) are commonly reported, though these tend to lessen in severity and eventually go away after some time.
- The lack of animal products in the diet could lead to deficiencies in important nutrients such as vitamin B12, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and iron.
Is a Raw Diet Right for YOU?
If those side effects are not enough to deter you, perhaps the raw food diet is right for you. Diet experts suggest easing into it slowly to keep side effects to a minimum. And, many agree that starting your diet with only 50 percent raw food is a great way to set yourself up for success. You’ll also want to have plenty of recipes on hand to keep your mind and your stomach entertained; and remember that not everyone goes 100 percent raw. In fact, many find a happy balance eating around 70 percent raw food.
Shetreat-Klein, M.D., Maya. "Benefits of a Raw Vegan Diet?" 9th Annual Nutrition and Health Conference. Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, Boston, MA. 16 April 2012.
Adams, Jackie. "Woman Goes Raw, Loses More than Half Herself." CNN.com. CNN, 26 Sept. 2008. Web. 8 May 2012.
Nordqvist, Christian. "What Is The Raw Food Diet? What Are The Benefits Of The Raw Food Diet?" MedicalNewsToday.com. Medical News Today, 8 May 2009. Web. 8 May 2012.