Health Benefits of Raw Foods
After dealing with a serious health issue I became very aware that a healthy diet is vital to overall health. Recently, a week of a hurricane-inspired power outage resulted in a rescheduled Halloween, which in turn required me to keep many bags of candy around the house much longer than I planned- in fact, until I could offload them to guests at my son's sleepover birthday party. With all this candy around, I couldn't seem to avoid eating way too much sugar and not nearly enough green vegetables, seriously derailing my goal of building a bionic immune system. Finally I said "enough is enough!", and decided to try a "raw foods" diet to get me back on the track of a healthy lifestyle, and at the same time adding some new and exciting goals to keep my diet interesting.
Raw foodists eat foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit or 46 degrees Celsius. Many people that follow this diet ensure that their meals consist of at least 80% raw foods. Basically this diet allows for the consumption of any unprocessed foods that can be eaten uncooked, obviously including fruits and vegetables, but also allowing for extremes such as sashimi or non-pasteurized milk. This diet requires a lot time devoted to food preparation, but many people find the increased energy levels and reversal of diseases worth the effort.
Why is Eating Raw Foods Beneficial?
There are numerous benefits from eating a diet comprised primarily or exclusively of raw foods. Some of these benefits are:
- Preservation of the enzymes that help us digest and absorb nutrients
- Improved quality of sleep
- Increased mental clarity
- More fiber leading to a healthier digestive system
- Nutrients that are destroyed by cooking are preserved
- Increased energy
- Clearer skin
- Reduced risks of diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes
- More alkaline-forming foods
- Slower aging process
- Reduced stress
- Strengthenened immune system
What are the Disadvantages of Eating Raw Foods?
As with any topic both sides of the issue must be discussed. There are some disadvantages to a diet that is exclusively raw foods.
- Exposure to chemicals results if the fruits and vegetables are not organic. To avoid this issue eat only organic produce, or wash the produce extremely well.
- In certain cases heating foods increases the nutritional value. For example, it is easier for the body to absorb lutein and lycopene (anti-cancer phytochemicals) when in the cooked form. To avoid this issue eat a diet that consists of 80% raw, and eat some vegetables (such as tomatoes) cooked.
- Nutritional deficiencies can result by eating such a restrictive diet, most obviously deficiencies in the key nutrients B12 and calcium. Avoid such deficiencies by including enough high-calcium vegetables (such as spinach), adding nutritional yeast (which contains B-12) to a green smoothie, and taking a multivitamin.
- It's a challenge to maintain a social life while on this diet. To make it easier meet your friends at a raw foods restaurant or invite them to your house for a meal containing primarily raw foods.
Websites for Free Raw Foods Recipes
What are Some Examples of Raw Foods?
If you want to attempt a raw-foods diet it is helpful to know what your options are. Try to focus on what you CAN eat rather than dwell on all those foods that you can't. Invest in a quality food processor and blender and check out these options:
Eat These Often:
- Raw nuts
- Raw Seeds
- All vegetables
- All fruits
Combine the Above Ingredients to Make:
- Fruit Smoothies
- Vegetable smoothies
- Avocado dip
- Nut butter
- Desserts (made from dates)
- Stuffed mushrooms
- Flax crackers
- Chickpea bread
- Veggie burgers
- Zucchini spaghetti with tomato sauce
Raw Foods Recipe for Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream-Very Entertaining!!
Have you ever tried the raw foods diet?
My Experience Eating 80% Raw Foods for a Week
After weighing the advantages and the disadvantages of the raw foods diet I decided to try eating 80% raw. I already consume a green smoothie and raw nuts as part of my daily routine, so this required just a little additional effort. It's always easier for me to begin a new diet on a Monday when the kids are back in school and my husband is back at work so I can come up with a plan and focus on it. I didn't force the raw foods diet on my family because I had to put my energy into achieving my goal rather than dealing with the protests from everybody else.
I started each day with a smoothie and wheatgrass juice(frozen cubes), and then ate a salad for dinner to keep it simple. I allowed myself a combination of cooked foods(chicken or fish) and vegetables for lunch. I did this for five days and had to stop due to plans that we made months ago to meet friends at a restaurant that did not contain raw food options (showing I didn't plan ahead very well). On the first day I was excited to start something new and found it easy to follow. The second day I felt a little tired in the afternoon but continued. By the third day I was wondering who these people are that claim that you feel energetic on raw foods and was this diet really worth it. On the fourth day I started feeling calmer and had increased mental clarity but not increased energy. On the fifth day I had even more mental clarity and felt slightly more energetic.
My experience so far has shown me that I need to have more variety in my meals, buy a better food processor, and accept the fact that I have to put in more time preparing my food. It is also quite obvious that next time I need to avoid social commitments for at least two weeks! It often takes two weeks to really detox, and then the real benefit from the diet can begin. Very soon I will attempt my raw foods experiment again, this time with better planning, and then I will update my article. I may even force my husband to join me in this little adventure.
Tips to Transition to Raw Foods
It is not easy to suddenly transition to the raw foods diet after eating primarily cooked foods. It might help if you follow these helpful tips (based upon my own experience):
- Set your own goal regarding the percentage of raw foods you would like to consume. I decided to try for 80% but any change is an improvement.
- Eliminate sugar,caffeine, and alcohol, as well as most processed foods.
- Write a realistic meal plan that reflects your lifestyle.
- Shop so you have all the available foods on hand so you are more likely to succeed.
- Be aware that it can take two or more weeks to feel the benefits, so don't get discouraged.
- Change just one meal at a time. Begin with breakfast so that you start your day with a feeling of accomplishment and a more alkaline body leading to more energy.
- After a few days add a raw foods dinner.
- If you plan to go 100% raw foods then you can make lunch a raw foods meal - but see how you feel first.
A diet that contains a high percentage of raw foods and numerous fruits and vegetables is beneficial but I don't believe it is essential to be 100% raw to derive the health benefits. Certain medical conditions may require special diets so always check with your doctor before starting the raw foods diet or any other diet. Give the raw foods diet a try, even if you do it on a short term basis, and see if you experience increased energy levels, increased mental clarity, or an improvement or reversal of health issues.
Raw Foods Restaurants in the United States
Pure Food and Wine