Thursday, March 15, 2012

Raw Food Diet: The Basics

The "raw food diet" has been a big nutrition trend for some time.  What does it entail? Meals consisting of raw, unprocessed plant foods, such as vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans, and fruits.  Is the diet worth it?  Well, that is a more complicated question to answer.

The concept behind the raw food diet is that foods are consumed in their most natural, and thus healthiest, form.  Cooking vegetables and legumes tends to kill the nutrients.  Processing such foods tends to add chemicals and preservatives.

At this point, the raw food diet is looking mighty enticing.  Compared to the average meal, a raw food alternative is higher in fiber, lower in fat, and lower in sugar.  However, one must beware of certain deficiencies (e.g., vitamin B12) that can occur when avoiding animal products in a raw food diet.  Additionally, certain foods need to be cooked in order to obtain certain nutrients.  For example, when tomatoes are cooked, the lycopene content is highest.  (Lycopene is a carotenoid thought to play a role in disease prevention.)  Meanwhile, eating raw egg whites can actually be a catalyst for a biotin deficiency. This is because avidin in the egg white binds to biotin in the egg yolk and prevents it from being distributed properly.  To avoid this, the egg should be cooked (which denatures the avidin) as opposed to eaten it raw ... or eggs should be avoided altogether and replaced with biotin supplements.

Now back to the original question: Is the raw food diet worth it? If done properly, the raw food diet can be beneficial.  The American Dietetic Association (ADA) offers the following guidelines for raw foodists in order to ensure sufficient intake of nutrients naturally found in animal products:
  • Eat almost twice the iron as nonvegetarians. Good sources of iron are tofu, legumes, almonds and cashews.
  • Eat at least eight servings a day of calcium-rich foods like bok choy, cabbage, soybeans, tempeh, and figs.
  • Eat fortified breakfast cereals, nutritional yeast, and fortified soy milk for B12. Supplements are a good idea.
  • Eat flaxseed and walnuts. Use canola, flaxseed, walnut, and soybean oil. These are all sources of omega-3 fatty acids. You may also want to take an omega-3 supplement.
I also recommend incorporating sushi into the raw food diet.  As always, please consult with your doctor before making any changes into to your diet or lifestyle.


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Jai said...

Eating more fruits and veggies was a challenge so I started juicing in December. This was posted on LHCF, it's a documentary about food; sign up to watch a free screening. :)

Loo said...

Juicing is a great idea for getting more fruits and veggies into the diet. Thanks for the link, Jai. Off to check it out! :o)

good diet plan said...

Thank you so much for this great article. Basically we can eat all foods, but bear in mind that we don’t need to have it in an exaggerated ways.

Lina40 said...

yay -- a great article Loo! I think I will be doing a weekly vid on this, in addition to my green smoothie check-in :)

Loo said...

You're welcome.

Loo said...

Thanks, Lina. I'm looking forward to your videos. :o)