I’d like to see the look on my grandfather’s face if I time traveled back to 1950’s America and told him I ate a diet consisting primarily of uncooked, raw food. He’d probably spit hot borsht at me. A man of true serenity and balance, he did live to be 99 so, in preface to this article, I restate my overarching belief in the moderation of all things, including diet. Neuroticism around food is unhealthier than unhealthy food. At least that’s my opinion.
That said, I eat healthy, I pay attention to what goes into my body and I am pretty aware of its effects. The last several years have seen a rise in popularity of what is most usually called the Raw Food diet and there’s some real compelling evidence of its benefits. The raw food diet is a diet where at least 75% of what’s eaten is unprocessed and uncooked plant foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, sprouts, seeds, nuts, grains, beans, nuts, dried fruit, and seaweed. The theory is that heating food above 116 degrees F destroys enzymes in food that can assist in the digestion and absorption process. Cooking is also thought to diminish the nutritional value and life force of the food you ingest.
The stated benefits of this way of eating are compelling. Increased energy, improved skin appearance, better digestion, weight loss, reduced risk of common illness such as flu to more serious problems such as heart disease and cancer are just a few of the plusses. Raw foods contain enzymes which greatly aid in their own digestion, freeing the body’s own enzymes to do the work unimpeded of regulating all the body’s many metabolic processes. Heating food degrades or destroys these enzymes in food, putting the burden on the body’s own enzyme production. Eating food without enzymes makes digestion more difficult, leads to toxicity in the body, to excess consumption of food, and therefore to obesity and to chronic disease. Raw foods contain bacteria and other micro-organisms that stimulate the immune system and enhance digestion by populating the digestive tract with beneficial flora and raw foods have overall higher nutrient value than foods which have been cooked. The diet is also low in sodium and high in potassium, magnesium, folate, fiber and phytochemicals.
So what can you eat? Basically unprocessed, organic, whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, grains, legumes, dried fruit, seaweed, freshly juiced fruit and vegetables, purified water and young coconut milk. There are many books written about the diet but the one describing the easiest transition is the Complete Book of Raw Food. Another great one is the Raw Nirvana DVD Set.
Now although at least 75% of what you eat should not be heated over 116 degrees F there are a few cooking techniques that can make foods more digestible and add variety to the diet, like sprouting seeds, grains, and beans; juicing fruit and vegetables; soaking nuts and dried fruit; blending and dehydrating food.
Skeptical? Try it for a month. If you don’t feel better you can write me a nasty email.
In the meantime…