When trying to eat healthy, it’s easy to get confused by various diet trends. Depending on the year and what the latest craze has been, marketing pitches will undoubtedly contain various claims that hate on this type of food while extolling the virtues of another alternative even though the reverse statement was previously believed and will likely come back into popular opinion in the future.
When figuring out what’s right for you and your family, remember these important principles: companies are in business to sell their particular products, scientific research of using specific foods to actually treat diseases is often lacking and moderation is key. In short, there are pros and cons to eating raw food so having a balance in your diet is likely ideal.
How does my access to nutrients compare with raw & cooked foods?
Looking at diets that contain raw food only
A completely raw diet will rely on ingredients like uncooked vegetables and fruits, unroasted nuts and seeds, dried fruits, beans and sprouted grains. Since heated foods are off limits, those who choose to still consume meat, eggs and milk products opt for raw or unpasteurized versions, which can lead to contracting food poisoning and other foodborne illnesses.
Those who skip out on eating meat, eggs and milk products entirely are likely to have nutritional gaps when it comes to nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. If left uncorrected, such deficiencies can result in health problems like osteoporosis so taking an extreme position of only eating raw foods is not nutritionally healthy for most people.
Understanding how the heating process works
Even if you want to avoid solely eating raw food, you might still be interested in understanding the nutrient-based differences between raw and cooked vegetables. Although the cooking process can change the nutritional content of foods, the change is neither universally bad nor universally good.
For example, raw beetroots are rich in a compound that can help increase blood flow and reduce your blood pressure, but the compounds can be destroyed during cooking. If you’re drinking beet juice to help your vascular health, you want to be juicing raw beets. On the other hand, your body can absorb more of the antioxidant lycopene when eating cooked tomatoes rather than the raw counterpart. Hence, if you’re biting into a fresh tomato solely for its antioxidant properties, you’d actually find more of what you’re looking for in tomato paste.
The vitamin C in red peppers breaks down at high heats, but your body can actually absorb more minerals like calcium and iron when eating cooked spinach. Because the cooking process changes the bioavailability of nutrients differently from veggie to veggie, you’ll probably be best off by eating a variation of raw and cooked products to get a nutritionally-diverse intake of goods.
Will eating raw foods help me lose weight & improve my digestion?
Trying to use the raw food diet as a weight loss program
Eating raw foods as a principle by itself doesn’t make you lose weight. If you cut out fatty meats but end up increasing the number of overall calories you intake by constantly loading up on unroasted nuts and sunbaked fruits, you will likely gain weight.
For some people, a switch to eating more uncooked foods helps their waistline by decreasing the number of times they saute a cup of spinach in a stick of butter. However, if you were to boil your fresh veggies in water or microwave part of a frozen bag, you could still integrate vegetables into your diet without added fat.
In this regard, if you decrease your consumption of calories and fat, regardless of whether your fruits and veggies are cooked or not, you will be on your way to shedding pounds.
Looking at the influence on digestion
Because heating food can break down natural enzymes that enhance the ease of digestion, some proponents of raw food diets assert that your body can process uncooked versions of food better. However, the body’s natural system of chewing food and exposing it to stomach acid effectively breaks up many of these same enzymes regardless so the real scientific evidence of one method being easier to digest over the other is inconclusive.
What other factors should I consider when determining if a raw food diet is for me?
Considering the availability and convenience of obtaining raw foods
Raw food diets mostly limit your grocery list to the produce section so that kind of eating regimen may require more trips to the store than you’re used to. If you like making biweekly trips to your local mart to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, you may be absolutely fine with eating more raw foods. If you have local farmers’ markets conveniently positioned near your house, you may even have a wide variety of fresh produce to choose from. Alternatively, you may be used to going to the grocery store every few weeks and would have a hard time adjusting.
Recognizing the costs of a raw food diet
Depending on your current eating habits, switching over to a diet either solely or largely consisting of uncooked foods can actually have a significant affect on your budget. If you’re used to spending lots of money on steak and ribs, fresh produce won’t likely be a sticker shock. On the other hand, if you’re used to pinching pennies, doling out the funds needed to fill you up on carrots and celery can really add up.
For individuals in the latter segment of the population, introducing more natural products into your daily diet may require some cost reductions elsewhere in your monthly budget.
Looking at the taste factor of this kind of diet
If you’ve never actually eaten picks like raw cabbage, collard greens and mustard greens, you may be in for quite a distasteful surprise. These kinds of veggies have a bitterness when raw that gets broken down when heated so trying out a raw food diet for a few days may have you quickly sneaking in the use of your microwave here or there for certain items if you’re really taste sensitive.