There’s a lot of information flying around these days about raw foods, and even an entire diet dedicated to them. Many health and weight conscious people are actively trying to add more raw foods to their eating plans, with some even aiming for strictly raw foods to make up 70%, 80%, or more of their diet.
Raw food is any food that hasn’t been cooked above a certain temperature (generally said to be somewhere between 104ºF and 130ºF), and raw foodists generally focus on eating a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. They advocate the practice of sprouting seeds, nuts, and even beans, by carefully soaking them in water for a certain amount of time to unlock additional nutrition, and are big fans of dehydrating fruits and vegetables at low temperatures. Some raw food advocates consume raw, unpasteurized dairy, and a small minority add raw meat or fish into their diet.
So what’s the point of skipping the cooking and "going raw"?
Well, according to many pure raw foodists, the dangers of food cooked above 130ºF are numerous and said to include cancer, toxemia, obesity, and heart disease. And the reported benefits range from clear skin to better sleep to cured diseases.
What is the truth about raw foods?
A close look at the evidence shows that a strict diet of 100% raw foods probably can’t cure you of any diseases in and of itself, and may leave you deficient in iron, selenium, protein, lycopene, zinc, and Vitamin B12. And so far there isn’t much evidence that cooking creates carcinogens in high enough amounts to make cooked food a direct cause of cancer or other diseases (that is, assuming you aren’t charring your meat to a burnt crisp).
But there are still many, many benefits to actively incorporating more raw food in your diet. I recommend trying to include some raw foods at each meal, preferably in the form of vegetables and fruit, and to eat all nuts and seeds raw whenever possible.
Here are five good reasons to include more raw foods in your diet...
1. Radically improve your digestion with enzymes.
Digestive enzymes are absolutely essential to your digestion and weight loss, because enzymes break down your food to make nutrients available to your body and keep your entire system in top-working order. Without them, you barely digest the food you eat and can end up with serious nutrient deficiencies and the very uncomfortable symptoms that come with bad digestion.
Of course, our bodies do naturally produce enzymes to help break down our food. But as we get older we naturally just produce less of them. On top of that, enzyme output is reduced by stress, meaning your average adult is affected by a lack of sufficient digestive enzymes.
While I recommend taking a supplement to make sure you’re getting sufficient digestive enzymes, there is a natural way to boost your digestion, and it comes in the form of raw food.
All raw nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits contain loads of naturally-occurring enzymes which can optimize your digestion and aid with fat loss. And if you take the time to sprout some of these foods, you’ll unlock even more enzyme goodness.
This is much better than cooking these foods because the process of heating them quickly destroys beneficial enzymes (like lipase and protease), which are essential for burning fat, gaining energy, and eliminating toxins.
Eating raw foods at every meal is a great way to boost your digestion and experience all the benefits of nutrition...including more energy!
2. Unlock more energy.
It’s true that including more raw vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds in your diet can dramatically boost your energy levels. The amazing storehouse of nutrition locked in these foods (and unlocked by enzymes) will boost your metabolism, feed your cells, supercharge your brain, and speed up digestion.
This may be surprising, but a great deal of your body’s energy is spent each day just on digestion. Hard-to-digest foods like conventional dairy and wheat make your body work harder, and use up your valuable stores of energy. On the other hand, when you have plenty of good raw foods in your system (and avoid harmful foods), everything runs smoothly and efficiently, leaving you with plenty of energy left over for playing with your kids, working out, or anything else you like to do.
3. Stay alkaline for better overall health.
If you recall your high school science classes, you might remember learning about the pH scale. Basically, any liquid has a pH value somewhere on the scale of 1-14 where 1 is very acidic, 14 is very alkaline, and 7 is neutral. The ideal blood pH is slightly alkaline, in the 7.365-7.45 range. If your blood is moving out of this safe range, your body will work extremely hard to get it back in line.
If you’re consuming a lot of acidic foods like artificial sweeteners, coffee, sugar, wheat, dairy, corn, canola oil, alcohol or beans, your body has to spend loads of effort (and energy) putting your system back in balance. And when it’s doing that, it isn’t spending as much effort on burning fat, fueling energy, or fighting off disease.
Many people have experienced great health benefits simply by including more alkalizing foods in their diet, and one of the absolute easiest and most effective ways to do this is to eat more raw foods and vegetables each and every day.
4. Get all the nutrition out of your food.
You’ll often hear raw food advocates claim that cooking robs food of its natural nutrition value by destroying vitamin content... and actually, with only a couple small exceptions, this is true. Some estimates indicate that the overall nutrient destruction caused by cooking could be as high as 80%, with certain nutrients – like Vitamin C and folic acid – taking an even bigger hit.
On the other hand, cooking can also increase certain vitamins, making the nutrients more available to us. In particular, vitamin A, lycopene, and beta-carotene – all very important nutrients – are enhanced by cooking.
For the most part, eating raw fruits and vegetables can only improve your overall health. It is well known that Vitamin C is highly sensitive to heat, and your best sources of Vitamin C – foods like broccoli, oranges, kiwi, kale, and cauliflower – are great foods to eat raw. If you can’t handle foods like kale without cooking them, try throwing them in a smoothie or using a dehydrator (set at a low temperature) to make them more palatable.
5. Lose more weight.
When you eat lots of raw vegetables, you’ll feel less hungry and be less likely to overeat.
Our brains and stomachs are especially good at taking cues from our mouths, and when it takes a while to chew our food – as is the case with raw veggies – our brains signal that it’s time to stop much earlier than when we’re eating soft, cooked foods. Plus, the bulk of fiber-rich vegetables fills up our stomachs and keeps us from feeling hungry.
In a nutshell: the extra fiber from a raw veggie salad will make you feel much fuller for much longer than a lunch made of cooked food, and less hunger means quicker, longer-lasting weight loss.
Note: I don’t want you to think that you have to eat ALL raw foods ALL the time to get all of the benefits I’ve been talking about. Just making an effort to include them in your eating plan every day – and preferably at every meal – will do wonders for your health and weight loss!