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Get Leaner & Reverse Health Issues Using A Raw, Whole-Food, Veggie-Based Diet

Updated on June 18, 2013

The Raw Idea

It's no secret that our bodies need proper nutrition to function smoothly. But Americans tend to over-process even home cooked meals. Before consuming our food, we first prepare it by stripping away important vitamins, enzymes, and other nutrients during cooking. When we eat a meal like this, our bodies know we're not getting the nutritional value we should be. Our biological response is to consume more in an effort to reach the amount needed for a healthy body. However, in addition to being low in nutrient value, the food we consume is high in calories, fats, and sugars. By the end of the day we consume far more calories than necessary and remain deficient in what are bodies really need. We pack on the pounds, store the fat, and cause damage to healthy cells by depriving them of the resources they need to stay strong.

How do you break this cycle of undernourishment and overindulgence? We can actually reverse many health issues by giving our bodies the right nutrients on a regular basis. That means consuming a higher value food in an unprocessed state. It's as simple and straight-forward as eating more raw fruits and vegetables, and less convenience and prepackaged foods.

Diseases Linked To Diet

There are many illnesses that are linked to the typical American, highly processed, high calorie, meat-based diet. We almost eliminate basic nutrients and enzymes through cooking, baking, frying, and bleaching our produce and grains. Then we consume far more meat that necessary. According to Dr. T. Collin Campbell, author of The China Study, animal protein can be associated with increased chance of developing cancer if you already possess the genetic tendency.

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. Heart surgery costs tens of thousands of dollars on average, and the expense (and side effects) of required medications can also be discouraging. With the exception of genetic defects, most existing heart disease can be prevented or even reversed through diet alone.

It's obvious that obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes can be be treated and managed better by changing what we eat. Doctors often prescribe a change in diet for their patients, however, it often ends there. Many of us are told to "eat better," without much detail or help in implementing a new diet plan. Nutritional advice is not often accepted or followed by patients, so doctors feel medications are more reliable. Because we have medications for diseases and illness, we feel a change in diet is unnecessary because we are already being "treated" with drugs.

Chances of autoimmune issues, skin diseases, and even cancer are also increased by poor diet. Depriving our bodies of the nutrients essential for a strong immune system and tissues makes us extremely vulnerable to a number of illnesses. Chronic pain, fatigue, and even mental illness can be linked to diet.

So what are the side effects of switching to a raw, plant-based diet (even just as a supplement to your current diet)? You'll lose weight, lower your chances of cancer and heart disease, lower your cholesterol, have clearer skin, increased energy, a better mood, increased resistance to things like colds and flues, and a longer, happier life in general.

How To Include More Raw Foods In Your Diet

My favorite way to get a "veggie fix" is by blending a variety of fruits and vegetables into a cold soup. Every Sunday, I buy about $30 - $40 worth of fresh produce from the grocery store. I take it home, blend it all up with water, a hemp protein powder, and milled flax seed then store the soup mixture in several 16oz Ball Freezer Jars to use throughout the week. On Monday morning, I grab one and take it with me to the office. By lunch time, it has thawed while sitting on my desk and is ready to drink as a single meal replacement. This healthy alternative is great if you're on the go and need something fast and filling.

Juicing is another common way to get all the nutritional benefits produce has to offer. This works well if the texture of some foods bother you, but you enjoy the taste. However, a juicer is a bit of a hassle to clean and a little on the expensive side. Because I already owned a blender, I was happy to skip this extra appliance for my home.

Personally, I had a hard time figuring snacks out. Obviously, you can grab a couple bags of baby carrots instead of potato chips when you're at the store, but that gets old fast. A better alternative is dehydration. A small dehydrator costs between $30 and $80, and allows you to dry a variety of produce for snacks without using a ton of sugars and oils. I always grab a bag of Gala apples while at the store for overnight drying. Other than slicing them and placing onto dehydrator trays, apple chips require no preparation or seasoning. They are sweet and crispy (or chewy, depending on how you make them) and keep for a long time. You can toss greens in oil, lemon juice, and seasoning before laying them on racks for drying. Kale is one of my favorite snacks this way.

Not only will you be saving money by purchasing less snacks, but you'll also get the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.

The Cost Of Raw Food Diets

We expect most healthful things to cost a little more, but eating raw actually saves you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your life. You already buy food every week, if not more often. So it's not like fresh produce isn't in the budget. And when you replace over processed, bleached, sweetened, cooked meals with raw foods, you get more beneficial calories than wasteful calories. All the nutrients in raw foods help your body recognize you're not malnourished, and you feel full faster without having to over-eat.

After the first week on a mostly raw (60% / 40%) diet, you will notice less cravings for greasy, bad-for-you foods and snacks. Less cravings mean you won't feel the urge to grab that bag of tortilla chips and nacho cheese at the store. Eating more nutritionally valuable foods will reduce your grocery bill over time because the quantity of food you need is reduced.

With all the health benefits of eating raw, you can expect fewer doctor visits and medications to deal with diseases fueled by poor nutrition. Your savings on health costs are the biggest financial reward for choosing a raw, whole food diet. Fewer co-pays, pills, and special accommodations mean more money in other parts of your life. You'll finally be able to pick up that hobby you never had the money or energy for. Oh yeah, did I mention you won't feel as tired as you used to?

Challeneges

This kind of diet is extremely demanding at the start. It's like learning how to "cook" for yourself all over again. However, as you gain experience in choosing the right kinds of foods and staying away from others, it gets easier. American culture makes it very difficult to make good nutrition choices. It takes a lot of independent research on your part to identify every day foods we think are good for us, as bad. And it takes a lot more effort to prepare raw foods as a meal.

Today, the most commonly consumed foods in the United States are convenience foods. Most of us know they are bad, or at least not healthy to eat regularly. We eat them anyways because it seems to make us happy. Many people will say they'd rather have a shorter life, and feel more fulfilled by eating whatever they want. With studies that clearly link diet to heart disease, high cholesterol, mental illness, fatigue, cancer, mood disorders, and autoimmune deficiencies, it's difficult to see how anyone could feel their life is more "fulfilled" when following the average American diet.

How Instinct & Biology Affect Diet

We're actually programmed to pursue foods that require the least amount of effort. Many species share this same instinct as a survival mechanism. The most easily obtained food with the most amount of calories (the biggest pay for the least amount of effort) are what makes our mouths water. This is the instinct we have to overcome in order to make the change to a healthier, longer life. This instinct is why people indulge in highly processed convenience foods even when they are aware of the long-term consequences.

Many Americans believe they have weak willpower when they fail to stick to a diet. In reality, we're trying to combat our own biological programming, which is no small task. This is hard work, so expect it to be a challenge. Not only will you be fighting a natural inclination, but you'll be bombarded by advertising and American-consumer culture. Our poor diets are widely accepted by our peers, friends, and families. Breaking our bad eating habits is an uphill battle, best accomplished using multiple support tactics.

Help Transitioning

Adjusting your diet to minimize cooking and processing your food almost feels like learning how to walk again. It seems awkward. You don't quite know what to do with that eggplant or 2lbs of zucchini now that it's sitting in your fridge. You don't want to waste money on food you can't figure out how to enjoy. Search out recipes before you go shopping. Look for simple ones that don't require too many ingredients or steps for your first few trips. Having specific recipes in mind will keep you from getting produce you don't know how to use yet, so you won't be discouraged because you wasted another head of lettuce.

Because you'll be buying less convenience (boxed, canned, and bagged) foods and more fresh produce, keep in mind that you're now working with a different shelf life. You'll typically be shopping more often for fewer ingredients. Remember not to buy more than three days worth of food so it doesn't go bad halfway through the week.

Having your entire family participate in a raw foods diet change is a good way to keep each other motivated. You can help each other make the good nutritional decisions and less impulsive ones. More heads in the game means more meal ideas and creativity as everyone learns a new way of food preparation. Switching your household to a diet even just 51% raw fruits, vegetables, and grains can only have positive results.

To help with sticking to your meal plans and grocery lists, use what tools today's world can offer. There is a huge online community of health centered people out there with years of experience eating well. Take advantage of that fancy pants smartphone you have by using a meal planner, calendar, and calorie count if it helps. Make notes about what you've eaten today so you can track your weak points.

How Healthy Are You?

What percentage of your current diet is raw fruits and vegetables?

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