The Advantages and Disadvantages
According to Various Experts
© 2016 Health Realizations, Inc. Update
A raw food movement has sweept across North America, advocating a diet of anywhere from 70 percent to 100 percent raw foods.
Raw foodists claim that switching to a predominantly raw food diet will give you more energy, slow down aging, improve your skin, boost your mood, and fight a host of chronic diseases including chronic fatigue syndrome, Crohn's disease and even cancer.
Raw foodists say that eating raw foods gives them more energy while boosting mood, slowing aging and fighting chronic diseases.
A true raw food diet consists of only raw foods, traditionally vegan ones like vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. However, some raw foodists also eat raw dairy products, raw eggs and even raw meat.
"When you cook something, you destroy the enzymes," said Karyn Calabrese, a well-known raw foodist in the Chicago-area in an NBC5 article. "You need enzymes for every metabolic purpose in your body. When you lose enzymes, that's when you die."
Enzymes begin to be destroyed at temperatures above 110-115 degrees, so raw foodists are allowed to use a dehydrator, which alters food slightly by blowing hot air on it.
Raw foods, advocates say, are also higher in vitamins and nutrients, which are also destroyed by cooking.
As evidence of raw foods' growing popularity, all-raw restaurants are popping up across the country, drawing raw foodists and locals alike. Far from the bland, cold and hard meals you might expect from raw foods, diners describe raw food offerings as "vibrant," "flavorful," and "refreshing."
"I'm 58 years old. I don't know what illness is. I have more energy then I know what to do with. I truly believe it is the life style I lead," said Calabrese, who owns a raw food restaurant in Chicago.
Is Raw Food Really Better Than Cooked Food?
As adamant as raw foodists are about the benefits of eating raw, proponents of old-fashioned cooked foods are just as outspoken.
"The claim that somehow raw foods give you better energy, are more healthful, improve your immune system and all of that is simply not substantiated," said Dennis Miller, a professor of food and nutrition at Cornell University, in a USA Today article. "And moreover, it's not biologically plausible."
He points out that certain foods, like beans, actually become more nutritious after cooking. Cooked tomatoes are also known to contain particularly healthy compounds like lycopene -- more so than raw tomatoes -- that help fight prostate cancer.
There's also the question of digestion. According to Donna Gates, author of The Body Ecology Diet, "Many people's digestive systems are simply too weak to digest raw vegetables in spite of all their natural enzymes."
She recommends "cooking your vegetables by baking, simmering, sautéing or lightly steaming them to make them more digestible" while simultaneously eating more fermented, or cultured, foods. The good bacteria in fermented foods, Gates says, will help you to create a healthy inner ecosystem and digest foods more efficiently.
Some say that boiling, stir-frying, steaming, baking or fermenting vegetables actually makes them easier to digest, and their nutrients more easily absorbed by your body.
Meanwhile, researchers at Rutgers University and Taiwan found that iron is more easily absorbed by the body from 37 of 48 vegetables they tested when they're boiled, stir-fried, steamed or grilled.
"We've been promoting a more vegetarian type of diet for decades, and I still want people to move in that direction," Dr. Robert Kushner, medical director of Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Wellness Institute in USA Today. "But to put up artificial barriers and silly rules that say you can't cook fruits and vegetables is pushing the envelope a little too far ... You can become deficient in a variety of nutrients, like vitamin B-12, calcium, iron and protein. And you can become sick."
The general consensus among conventional nutritionists continues to be that eating lots of fruits and vegetables is always nutritious ... but it's not necessary to restrict yourself to only raw foods to be healthy.
As for the general public, very few have crossed the line to 100 percent raw ... but the interest, or at least the curiosity, of many has been peaked.
If you would like to try out some delicious raw food recipes for yourself, Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes, is one of many book you highly recommended. Even those who are new to the raw food movement will enjoy the simple recipes (most can be prepared in five minutes!) for lasagna, spaghetti marinara, stuffed mushrooms, broccoli in cheese sauce, apple pie and more. They're healthy and delicious, whether you're a raw foodist or not!