Dietary recommendations are like belly buttons; everybody has one. Gym goers and fitness enthusiasts alike are barraged continuously with fad diet suggestions and secret nutritional techniques that promise fast results with little shortcomings. None of these dietary movements has as many vocal proponents as the Raw Diet.
The raw diet has increased in popularity exponentially in the last few years and is being practised by celebrities and middle-class soccer moms in equal measure.
Those who defend the raw diet say that it provides many health benefits, with some even proposing that it can help prevent cancer.
On the other hand, many say that a raw diet will inevitably lead to a severe nutritional deficiency. So the question is who is right? Is the raw rort healthy, or is it a hoax?
The basics of the Raw Diet
The raw diet movement proposes that the majority of our food consumption should be composed of unprocessed and uncooked foods.
There are many varieties and different attitudes towards the raw diet, with some groups recommending that at least sixty percent of food consumed should be raw while others propose that we should consume raw food exclusively.
There are vegetarian variations that limit food consumption to fruits, vegetables, unroasted seeds, and legumes.
The omnivore raw diet
The omnivore raw diet allows for the consumption of specific animal products such as raw fish, Carpaccio style meat, raw eggs, and unpasteurized milk and its derivatives.
The main issue that proponents of the raw movement base their assumptions on is that heating food beyond a certain heat threshold during the cooking process creates toxins, carcinogens, free radicals, and other harmful compounds.
What cooking is doing to your food and the nutrients
Cooking also tends to break down digestive enzymes such as amylase, protease, and lipase. The breakdown of these enzymes makes digestion more energy intensive and promotes toxicity and inflammatory processes within the body that can potentially lead to obesity and chronic metabolic syndrome.
Because of this, the raw diet can provide a much more significant nutritional value as uncooked foods are more nutrient-rich than their cooked counterparts.
Water-soluble vitamins, for example, are extremely sensitive to heat and can quickly be purged from food when cooked.
Some foods can lose over half of their nutritional content this way.
High temperatures or extended cooking times of specific cooking methods then are more than able to rob food of most of its nutritional value.
A raw diet is also more abundant in helpful bacteria and microbiology that can help maintain stable intestinal flora.
Intestinal flora as we all know is essential for digestive health and the integrity of the immune apparatus.
The fantastic benefits of getting more fibre into your diet
Raw food is also extremely rich in fibre which as we all know provides a myriad of health benefits.
A diet rich in nutritional fibre has been shown to improve blood lipid levels as well as cardiovascular performance.
Getting sufficient dietary fibre is also extremely important in the prevention of inflammatory diseases such as colon cancer.
By limiting your diet to raw foods, the assumption is that a higher percentage of your consumption will contain higher fibre content.
Raw food is great so why would I need to turn my stove on again?
Detractors of the raw movement make some solid points against it.
The most significant argument against a total raw consumption is that by limiting your choices so strictly, you leave out essential groups of foods that provide much-needed nutrients.
Raw diets can be severely deficient in some very important micronutrients, and this is potentially dangerous.
What are raw diets deficient in?
Raw diets by their very nature tend to be deficient in:
Vitamin D is an extremely important nutrient that is extremely important for skin and bone health. Vitamin D is primarily obtained from dietary consumption of animal-derived foods.
Individuals that follow mostly raw diets are also often deficient in Omega 3 Fatty Acids which are essential for cardiovascular health.
What about food poisoning and foodborne diseases?
Another argument against the raw diet is for those who practice the omnivorous variant put themselves at a significant risk for food poisoning. There is a real possibility of contracting dangerous foodborne disease and parasites through the consumption of raw meats and unpasteurized milk.
Against the argument that the cooking process decreases the nutritional value of foods there is the fact that for some nutrients such as beta-carotene and lycopene, cooking increases their bioavailability.
A balanced diet or the raw diet?
The bottom line is that while raw diets do provide some benefits, they do not do so to a greater degree than a regular balanced diet that includes cooked foods.
It is important to remember that the digestive process itself breaks down many of the same enzymes that cooking does, so ingesting foods raw does not provide any benefit in this regard.
Cooking also provides a greater degree of protection against heat-sensitive parasites and bacteria. Salmonella and E. coli are very dangerous microorganisms that cause countless cases of illness every year, and by consuming foods raw, we increase the risk of contracting them.
This method is always great for your body
Increasing consumption of vegetables and fruits is never a bad idea, but there is no exclusive benefit to approaching your diet with a raw-only mentality.
If you do decide to begin living the raw only lifestyle, I strongly suggest you be taking nutritional supplements.
A high-quality multivitamin such as MULTIVITA from MUSCLESPORT that can provide your body with a full suite of vitamins and micronutrients would help you cover any deficiency that arises from limiting your consumption to raw foods.
You should also consider taking a protein supplement since sufficient protein is much harder to come by when ingesting mostly vegetable foods. The folks at ISOPURE manufacture one of the markets leading protein supplements.
ISOPURE ZERO CARB is expertly formulated and provides over fifty grams of the purest whey protein per serving.
It is also reinforced with Branched Chain Amino Acids and glutamine so that you feel energised and prime your body for muscle building.
So is the raw diet healthy?
There is plenty of evidence as noted above. At the end of the day, you have to do what is right for your body and your body type.
More importantly, you need to find a diet solution that meets your fitness and health objectives. What is it you would like to achieve? Does a raw diet help you achieve those goals?
- Link, Lilli B., and Judith S. Jacobson. “Factors affecting adherence to a raw vegan diet.” Complementary therapies in clinical practice 14.1 (2008): 53-59.
- Arumugaswamy, R. K., et al. “Prevalence of Salmonella in raw and cooked foods in Malaysia.” Food Microbiology 12 (1995): 3-8.
- Klontz, Karl C., et al. “Prevalence of selected food consumption and preparation behaviors associated with increased risks of food-borne disease.” Journal of Food Protection 58.8 (1995): 927-930.
- Turkmen, Nihal, Ferda Sari, and Y. Sedat Velioglu. “The effect of cooking methods on total phenolics and antioxidant activity of selected green vegetables.” Food Chemistry 93.4 (2005): 713-718.
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