Many people believe that a raw food diet can cure a variety of diseases. The idea is that cooking degrades enzymes, reduces nutrients, and may produce toxic compounds. Eating foods that are never heated above about 118° F prevents these effects and provides powerful health benefits.
How cooking affects food
Although there is not yet sufficient research to support the conclusion that a raw diet is a cure-all for many diseases, it is true that cooking destroys digestive enzymes and enzymes that help convert certain nutrients in food into anti-carcinogenic compounds.
Furthermore, cooking can reduce important nutrients such as flavonoids, phenolic compounds, and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in vegetables such as red cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.[3,4,5] Many of these compounds have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which are important in the prevention of disease.
What raw foodists eat
Vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds are common in the raw food diet, and many raw food diet recipes combine these ingredients in delicious ways. In some cases, people will include animal products like raw cheeses or sashimi (raw fish).
Some raw foodists eat 100% raw food, but this can be very difficult. Others try to incorporate as much raw food as possible, while still including some cooked food here and there. Many raw food diets aim for 75% raw food.
Raw food can be prepared in a variety of ways, while never heating food above 118° F:
- Dehydrating (using a food dehydrator below 118°F)
Raw food benefits
Raw diets have been associated with improved immune function, decreased risk of epithelial cancers (especially of the digestive tract), improved symptoms of fibromyalgia[6,7] and rheumatoid arthritis, and reduced LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Much more research is needed, however, to validate the conclusions of these studies. People on a raw food diet eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and fewer carbohydrates, which may in part be the reason for these health effects, not simply the fact that they are eating only raw food.
Drawbacks of the raw food diet
Cooking doesn’t always lessen nutrition. In fact, sometimes it actually increases nutrients. Cooked foods have been shown to have higher levels of β-carotene. People who only eat raw food are also at risk of having low levels of vitamin B-12, protein, and calcium.
Raw rood diet recipes
Whether you choose to go all-out raw or just want to incorporate more raw food into your diet to take advantage of some of the health benefits, there are many delicious recipes for you to try. Browse the Internet for creative ways to prepare raw food, such as these Cheezy Kale Crackers, or try our recipe for Raw Key Lime Mousse below.
Raw Key Lime Mousse
1 ½ C avocado, mashed
⅔ C lime juice
3 T lime zest
2 T coconut oil
2 T arrowroot powder
¾ C coconut cream
⅓-½ C raw agave
- Blend all ingredients except agave in a food processor until smooth.
- Add agave to your desired sweetness.
- Pour into small bowls and refrigerate for at least one hour. You may also pour into a raw nut crust to make a pie or tarts if desired.
- If desired, sprinkle with berries and garnish with extra lime zest before serving.
4-6 C Napa cabbage, chopped
4 green onions, sliced
1 large carrot, grated
½ C raw sunflower seeds
¼ C cilantro, chopped
4 T cold pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
3 T brown rice vinegar
¼ t sea salt
pinch cayenne pepper
- Combine ingredients for salad in a large bowl.
- Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour over the salad and mix to combine.
Adapted from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre.
Raw Pad Thai
2 zucchini, ends trimmed
1 head red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup bean sprouts
3/4 cup raw almond butter
2 oranges, juiced
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon raw soy sauce
1 tablespoon unpasteurized miso
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Slice zucchini and carrots with a vegetable peeler to create long thin noodles. Put zucchini on a plate.
- Combine carrots, cabbage, red bell pepper, and bean sprouts in a large bowl.
- Whisk together almond butter, orange juice, honey, ginger, soy sauce, miso, garlic, and cayenne pepper.
- Pour half of sauce into cabbage mixture and toss to coat.
- Top zucchini with cabbage mixture. Pour remaining sauce over each portion.
Source: Raw Angel
2 very ripe avocados
3 tomatoes, diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced
2 tbsp yellow onion, diced
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
kernels from one ear raw corn
2 tsp fresh lime juice
6-8 large lettuce leaves
- Mash the avocado.
- Mix with remaining ingredients.
- Spread of lettuce leaves.
Share your experience
What are your favorite raw food recipes? Do you think eating raw food helps your health? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.