Raw food diet: is it suitable for everyone?

The internet is full of photos of raw biscuits, lasagna, zucchini pasta with peanut sauce, desserts based on nuts, berries and fruits, and there are more and more options in stores and restaurants for adherents of the raw diet. People are interested in healthy eating, and a raw food diet is said to be almost the best diet for a person. But is it really good for everyone?

What is raw foods?

The very word “raw food” speaks for itself. The diet involves the use of exclusively raw foods. Salt and seasonings are not welcome, maximum – cold-pressed oils. Cereals such as green buckwheat can be consumed sprouted. Most raw foodists are vegans who eat exclusively plant foods, but meat eaters have also mastered this trend, also eating everything raw, including meat and fish.

A vegan raw foodist’s diet consists of vegetables, fruits, algae, seeds, nuts, and sprouted seeds and grains. Proponents of the raw movement sing an ode to increased energy levels and mood as they promote their diet. Writer Anneli Whitfield, who used to work as a Hollywood stuntwoman, switched to a raw food diet after she gave birth to a child. Since she had to sleep for four hours every night while breastfeeding, Anneli became a raw foodist, stopped constantly wanting to sleep and is not going to leave this path.

The reason for the increase in energy, according to the raw foodists themselves, is that the food does not heat up more than 42⁰С. This prevents the breakdown of enzymes needed for healthy body processes and preserves the vitamins, minerals and amino acids in the food. That is, a raw food diet is not exclusively cold food, it can be warm, but not hot.

Is Raw Food the Ideal Diet?

Heat treatment does destroy some of the enzymes and nutrients. However, studies show that cooking many foods (like tomatoes) actually makes them easier to digest, and the amount of nutrients increases exponentially. Prolonged cooking is essential for some healthy foods such as beans, ruby ​​and brown rice, chickpeas, and many others.

But think about the size of the stomach. The volume of the intestines tends to increase when a person consumes a lot of raw plant foods. Animals such as ruminants (cows and sheep) have multi-chambered stomachs to digest the cellulose they consume from grass. Their gastrointestinal tracts contain bacteria that break down cellulose and allow it to be digested.

Also think about chewing time. Chimpanzees in Tanzania spend over 6 hours a day chewing. If we lived on the diet of these monkeys, we would have to spend more than 40% of the day on this process. Cooked food saves time, and chewing takes (at best) an average of about 4 hours a day.

Is the raw food diet suitable for everyone?

All people are different, and everyone has their own food experience from the past. It’s important to keep in mind that just because your mind has decided to eat healthier raw vegetables and fruits doesn’t mean your body is ok with it.

The Asian health system advises that a diet based on raw plant foods is not suitable for “cold” people, that is, those with cold hands and feet, pale and thin skin. Such conditions can be ameliorated by eating cooked foods, which consist of foods that warm the body, such as oats, barley, cumin, ginger, dates, parsnips, yams, cabbage, and butter. But for those people who show symptoms of “warmth” (red skin, feeling hot), a raw food diet can benefit.

Health problems on a raw food diet

The main problem with a raw food diet is that people may not get enough important nutrients. Another problem is the suppression of some key processes in the body (such as hormone synthesis) due to low energy levels.

A person may absorb more phytochemicals in raw foods (such as the sulforaphane in broccoli), while other foods may have lesser amounts (such as lycopene from tomatoes and carotenoids from carrots, which increase their concentration when cooked).

Raw foodists may also have low levels of vitamin B12 and HDL (“good cholesterol”). The amino acid homocysteine ​​may be increased, which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Women on a raw diet are at risk of experiencing partial or total amenorrhea. (absence of menstruation). Men may also notice changes in reproductive hormones, including decreased testosterone production.

And another, no less unpleasant problem: bloating. Consuming a lot of the fiber found in fruits and vegetables causes bloating, flatulence, and loose stools.

Switching to a raw food diet

Prudence is always relevant, especially when it comes to food. If you want to try eating raw food, do it gently and gradually, carefully observing the state and the effect it has on your mood and body. Extreme in this case is not a good idea. Leading raw food experts advise moving slowly and aiming for 100-50% rather than 70% raw.

Most nutritionists agree that the best time to introduce raw foods is summer. The body can handle raw, unprocessed food better. In autumn and winter, warming, cooked foods are easier to digest, having a positive effect on the mind and body. But always watch your well-being and sensations in the body!

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