RAW FOOD DIET: CAN IT WORK FOR YOU?
‘Raw’ is everywhere — raw bliss balls, raw-food cafés, raw green shakes, and let’s not forget those ubiquitous raw kale salads.
Learn about the latest food trend
You’ve no doubt heard amazing claims about the health benefits of eating raw food: clearer skin, stronger immunity, greater energy, easier weight loss and even slower ageing. So is a raw-food diet the key to good health?
Food in the raw Going ‘raw’ means eating most of your food uncooked. This is a diet of fresh fruit and vegies, nuts and seeds, plus extra-virgin olive oil and other cold-pressed oils. (These oils are extracted by squeezing rather than with heat and chemicals.)
Raw-food enthusiasts avoid eating anything that has been cooked or heat processed. They believe that temperatures higher than 40°C kill the ‘life force’ of food (and damage its enzymes), and interfere with the digestive process. Currently, little scientific evidence supports these ideas. ‘Raw-ism’ comes in many forms. Some raw foodies follow a vegan diet, whereas others eat raw meat (carpaccio) or seafood (sashimi and oysters). In the US, some people even drink raw milk, but our health authorities advise against this, because consuming unpasteurised milk can cause serious illness, such as salmonella. (In Australia, the sale of raw milk is illegal.)
‘Raw’ packaged foods Unlike the words organic and high fibre, the term ‘raw’ has no legally binding definition. As a result, some packaged foods now boast a ‘raw’ claim ( just like the products below). But how does some dried fruit qualify as raw? Well, it’s dried below that critical 40°C. You may also come across ‘raw’ Essene grain bread, which is a dense, heavy uncooked bread.
Your body on raw foods Raw foods reward your body in several ways. You avoid sugary and highly processed foods, along with anything that’s been pasteurised or homogenised. In addition, your food will be free of additives, pesticides, industrial solvents and chemical fertilisers.
Following a raw diet can also help you lose weight, because you eat a lot of food, but it’s all relatively low in kilojoules. This way of eating also fills your diet with fruit and veg — something most of us need to do — and lifts your intake of phytochemicals (plant antioxidants) as well as heat-sensitive vitamins, such as vitamin C and folate.
Although cooking destroys some nutrients, the process has its advantages: Heat zaps bad bacteria; improves the nutrients in tomatoes, lentils, beans and nuts; and softens starchy foods, such as potatoes, making them easier to eat and digest.
THE BOTTOM LINE There’s no need to commit yourself exclusively to raw food, but eating more fresh fruit and veg is great for your health!
Raw-food enthusiasts avoid eating anything that’s been cooked or