By Lisa Pecos
If you pay attention to trends in natural health, you are probably aware of the raw food movement. But for those who have never heard of it, it is simple: The raw food diet, sometimes known as raw foodism, is the practice of eating nothing but uncooked and unprocessed foods. The diet supposedly has a number of health benefits, and there is no doubt that a diet rich in raw vegetables, seeds, nuts and grain is healthy. But some aspects of the diet have come under question by dieticians and other health advocates, so if you are going to try this diet, there are some important things to be aware of.
Reasons to go raw
The main argument for raw foodism is that uncooked foods have the purest, most active vitamins and nutrients, and that cooking food kills some of the health benefits. There is some truth to this. It is only natural that placing food over eat will cause some of its chemical composition to deteriorate. So if you do not mind going without the flavor benefits of cooked food, you might want to try raw foodism for a few weeks just to see if it makes you feel healthier. Everyone responds differently, so you never know until you try.
The other main benefit of eating raw is that it more or less forces you to eat healthy foods. It may be possible to eat a junk-food diet while practicing raw foodism, but it would be quite difficult. Practically every junk food in the world consists of cooked or processed elements. To a strict raw foodist, things like cake, cookies, candy, and potato chips are all out of the question, as are many of the most fattening meals. So one might think of raw foodism not as an end in itself but as a means toward a pure, junk-free diet.
Reasons not to go raw
For many people, there is one huge and obvious reason not to go raw: flavor. Cooking brings out the flavors in many types of foods and allows us to make things that are not possible with uncooked food. There are whole categories of great-tasting food-for example, bread and meat-for which cooking is virtually indispensable. To go raw is to accept that you simply cannot eat these things, and many people do not want to take that step.
Meanwhile, although cooking food does tend to diminish some of the nutrients, cooking sometimes releases special qualities of food to make it more nutritious. So the health factor goes both ways. Plus, let us not forget the other major benefit to cooking food: Heating foods to a high temperature kills potentially disease-causing microbes. Adopting a raw-food diet elevates one’s risk of food-born illnesses of all kinds.
How to go raw
If you like the idea of raw foodism but are not sure you want to go all out, there is no reason why you cannot adopt hybrid diet. Focus on eating raw foods as much as possible, but do not be so strict that you cannot allow yourself a cooked meal or a few treats here and there. In fact, knowing that you can allow yourself to lapse from time to time may give you the motivation to be serious about it.
Whether you are going all out or pursuing a hybrid diet, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Make fruits, nuts, and vegetables the centerpieces of your diet. Have them with every meal, and build around them.
- Find a few simple raw-food based meals and snacks that you love and that are easy to make. For example, many raw foodists have multiple smoothies a day because they taste good and are easy. Avoid complicated raw-food preparation methods, except on special occasions, as these can become tiresome.
- Learn about what fruits and vegetables are in season in your area at different times of year, and rely on them. This way, you will always get the freshest foods, which means they will taste great and make your diet more rewarding.
- Make sure you get enough food out of your diet. Raw foodism is sometimes used as an excuse to under-eat, which can have serious consequences. If you have a dearth of calories in your daily diet, make up for it with things like nuts and raw chocolate.