Raw Food Diet review

RawFoodDietSo, what is a ‘raw food diet’?

The concepts of a raw food diet are by no means new. But we have seen an upsurge of raw food advocates in recent years because of the fitness/health trend. This diet has many versions, most similar to vegan or vegetarian diets. Some advocates would argue that food is allowed to be heated, but not above 118 degrees (F) and others follow a strictly vegan approach. Regardless of the version though, the main result is an increase in raw fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Why would someone follow this type of diet, you ask? Well, many raw foodists believe that heating food destroys nutrients and by eating raw foods, our bodies are getting the most nutrients possible. There are also claims that this diet will decrease hunger, help with weight loss, improve health and increase energy.

The Raw Challenge

Raw Challenge is a 30-day program to help beginners jumpstart their raw diet lifestyle. This book is written by Lisa Montgomery, who is a certified associate raw chef instructor and holistic health care practitioner. As mentioned earlier, there are many versions of this diet, but Lisa advocates for a more vegan-type of approach.

Advantages:

  • Increase in fruit and vegetable consumption (and all the nutritional perks like increased vitamin, mineral, phytochemicals, and fiber)
  • You don’t have to cook!
  • Potential weight loss, since many raw foods are low in calories, fat, and sodium, and high in fiber
  • You don’t have to pay for meetings or memberships as with many weight loss programs

Disadvantages:

  • Risk of nutritional deficiencies when you eliminate entire food groups from your diet – mainly protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin B12
  • Level of effort is high
  • Appliances like blenders , dehydrators and food processors can be costly
  • Groceries may cost more, especially if you’re buying produce that’s not in season or if you are buying organic
  • Risk of foodborne illness since you’re not cooking foods
  • Difficult to go out to dinner or attend social events
  • Food prep can be time consuming – blending, mixing, dehydrating
  • *Potentially compromised protein intake (I will expand on this below)

What can you eat and what you can’t eat:

This diet mostly consists of:

  • Raw fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Sprouted grains
  • Some people also eat raw eggs, meat and fish. But, as I said earlier, the Raw Challenge focuses more on a vegan approach

What you won’t be eating on this diet:

  • Packaged and processed foods
  • Grains and grain-based products
  • Lentils and beans
  • Any foods that are cooked, or must be cooked, such as meat

Note that some other raw food diets allow dairy. But it must be raw (unpasteurized), which, of course, increases risk for illness.

*More on protein mentioned earlier: Adult men need a minimum of about 56 grams of protein per day and women need about 46 grams per day.  By cutting out meats, you significantly reduce the amount of protein that you are consuming. Some would say, “But nuts have protein!” This is true, but an ounce of almonds, for example, contains about 6 grams of protein. This means that a man on this diet would have to eat a little over 9 ounces of almonds to get an adequate amount and a woman would have to eat a little over 7 ½ ounces. To put this in perspective, that’s about a whole cup of almonds, give or take a few ounces. I would also like to point out that one ounce of almonds is approximately 163 calories, meaning a man who eats 9 ounces of almonds to meet adequate protein needs would also be consuming close to 1,500 calories in almonds alone (a little over 1,200 calories for a woman). So, if the intent of this diet is weight loss, think again, as the potential high calorie intake from nuts might offset the advantages for weight control.

Main points

The fact is, although we all want a miracle diet that will be a cure-all and a fix-all, any diet that claims to be the magic elixir of all things good also often forgets to mention their drawbacks. Could it be that many of the health benefits that raw foodists experience come from the simple fact that they’ve cut out virtually all processed foods and increased their fruit and veggie intake? Quite possibly, but there are no long term studies to support the claims of the raw food diet. We must be mindful about radical assertions regarding nutrition and health. Although many who follow the Raw Challenge may experience results like weight loss, increased energy and stamina, etc., it is not a diet that is sustainable for long-term health, because it excludes nutrients our bodies need. While it is true that decreasing consumption of processed foods and increasing intake of fruits and vegetables is advantageous, we must ask ourselves if it is equally as beneficial to exclude all cooked foods from our diets.

Almost anyone can benefit from eating more fruits and veggies. But both variety and balance are keys to good health.

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