The raw food diet is as much a life-style as an eating plan; a naturalistic approach which excludes, in addition to cooked and animal foods, processed and refined ingredients.
In the ever-hungry quest for new fads and health panaceas, the raw food diet, with adherents such as Woody Harrelson and Donna Karan, is growing in mainstream popularity. Unlike many other bandwagons however, raw foods (also referred to as ‘living foods’), offer unarguable health benefits and one can reap rewards even as a 50% dabbler. To be a 100% extremist takes commitment, discipline and education and is best introduced gradually to avoid the overwhelm of inevitable detoxification.
A food is essentially ‘raw’ if it is kept below 115 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature above which enzymes are destroyed. Eating raw food ensures an opulent intake of nutrients, fibre, healthy oils and life-giving enzymes. Raw food is much more easily digested, taking half to a third of the time of cooked food, around 24-36 hours compared to 40-100 hours. Raw vegetables and fruits, are also predominantly alkaline so help to optmize the pH balance of the body (around 60-80% alkaline foods being recommended for an internal environment resistant to disease).
Whole foods, sprouts and raw juices are favoured in a raw food diet, and dehydrator ‘ovens’ effectively concentrate the flavour of certain raw foods to assist in the creation of a mind-boggling array of as-cooked dishes. I’ve eaten a raw food pizza that unbelievably contained no wheat, no cheese and no cooked ingredients! It tasted delicious and I was stumped to figure out what it was actually made of!
Raw plant foods are healthy, regenerative, cleansing, energising, predominantly alkaline, and packed with vitamins, minerals, healthy oils, enzymes and antioxidants that promote health, beauty and longevity. As well as enhancing digestion and protecting against aging and disease, a raw food diet has noted weight loss benefits and promotes clear, beautiful skin.
The benefit of raw food becomes even more apparent in view of the effects cooking can have on constituents in food.
The Effects of Cooking
Arthur Baker writes in Awakening Our Self-Healing Body, ‘Overly cooked foods literally wreck our body. They deny needed nutrients to the system since heat alters foodstuffs such that they are partially, mostly, or wholly destroyed. Nutrients are coagulated, deaminized, caramelized and rendered inorganic and become toxic and pathogenic in the body.’
The indigestible end products of cooked foods can linger in the gut, clogging the intestines and interfering with healthy elimination. They can cause a build-up of toxins, mutagens and carcinogens. Carbohydrates ferment, proteins putrefy and fats become rancid, creating free radicals that enter the blood stream.
Lipufuscin, the ‘aging pigment’, is an example of a waste product created from damaged proteins and fats. It accumulates in the skin and nervous system and is visible as brown ‘liver spots’ on the skin and eyes.
Toxic by-products and excess free radicals from cooked foods can weaken the immune system and accelerate the aging process.
Cooking destroys enzymes in our food. These delicate, heat sensitive proteins can destabilise at temperatures as low as 115 degrees Fahrenheit, hence even light steaming can render them inactive.
Enzymes, so abundant in a raw food diet, are highly functional catalysts involved in various health-regulating tasks in the body, such as breaking down food in digestion, delivering nutrients, carrying away toxic wastes and strengthening the endocrine and immune system. All living cells contain enzymes which function in cooperation with other minerals. As there is not an unlimited supply of enzymes, eating them in our food lifts the burden off organs to produce digestive enzymes which allows a greater use of enzymes for other metabolic purposes, freeing up more energy for the performance of other tasks.
In cooking food we can loose up to 97% of water-soluble vitamins (B and C) and 40% of fat-soluble vitamins (namely A, D, E and K).
Heat denatures proteins, modifying their molecular structure and rendering them unusable. The bacteria in the gut feeds upon undigested proteins that tend to putrefy, giving rise to toxins. Raw foods provide healthy, readily available protein in greater supply without undigested residue.
Oils are heat, light and air sensitive. Heating can destroy the goodness of an oil and alter molecules generating toxins and free radicals. Unrefined oils that are cold-pressed contain all their natural healthy substances (olive oil for example is rich in phytonutrients, flaxseed oil a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and so on). Oils should be kept refrigerated in dark sealed containers.
Fibre is essential for health and helps to flush out the intestines, scrubbing them clean and aiding elimination. With cooked food fibre becomes a soft substance, loosing its brush-like quality. It can partially rot, ferment and putrefy in the gut, causing toxins, gas and heartburn.
Eating superfoods enhances a raw food diet even further. Superfoods are the most potent, antioxidant rich, nutrient dense, disease fighting, anti aging, beautifying, mood enhancing, immune boosting foods on the planet. Raw superfoods ensure an optimum intake of nutrients and phytochemicals for optimum health.
Raw Food Diet For Your Pets
A raw food diet for dogs and cats is both natural and species-appropriate. Not only does it provide a rich supply of nutrients, antioxidants and enzymes, but ensures a move a way from the low grade, inappropriate, highly processed and toxic ingredients found in commercial pet foods that can damage your pet’s health. If embarking on a homemade raw food diet for your pet (sometimes referred to as BARF), thoroughly research the area first as nutritional balance is essential.