Is a Raw Food Diet for You?

In light of Earth Day being today, we thought we would talk about the ultimate in “green” eating – Raw Diets. We are sure many of you have heard of raw eating, and many of you have either tried it or contemplated trying it. Still others may be saying, “What’s up with that?” So, we give you Raw Eating 101.

The Good:

A Raw food diet is just that – raw. All foods are consumed raw or heated to no more than 118 degrees, the temperature at which it is claimed that enzymes are broken down. The diet is rich in so many good-for-you foods: fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, nut butters, and seeds. All of this should be part of a  healthy diet, providing you with lots of fiber and antioxidants. There’s also little chance of eating too much protein or unhealthy fat.

The Bad:

When you eat everything raw, you lose much of the best flavor, texture and appearance of food. More importantly, is the fact that many of the vitamins and minerals found in vegetables are less bio-available when you eat these foods raw than when they’re cooked. For example, you can get lycopene, the carotenoid pigment that protects against prostate cancer, only from cooked tomatoes, not from raw ones. The carotenoids in carrots are more bio-available from cooked carrots than they are from raw ones.

Another disadvantage has to do with the fact that many of the natural toxins in edible roots, seeds, stems, and leaves are destroyed by cooking. Button mushrooms contain natural carcinogens, which are deactivated by cooking. Alfalfa sprouts contain canavanine, a natural toxin that can harm the immune system. Celery produces psoralens, compounds that sensitize the skin to the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. All of these are broken down by simple cooking. Although our bodies have natural defenses against these toxins, a raw food diet can add to the toxic load we’re already dealing with.

The Bottom Line:

Can a raw food diet be healthy? Absolutely. With all of the fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains, your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer is greatly reduced. Just make sure you get enough protein and healthy fats, and please don’t be afraid to cook those carrots and tomatoes in just a little olive oil.

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