Eating a raw food diet does not necessarily mean eating only uncooked foods. Depending on the type of raw diet you follow, you may not even be allowed to eat certain raw foods that contain any additives or preservatives, growth hormones, or come from commercial manufacturing sources. Before you consider trying a full or partial raw diet, review some basics about this style of eating.
What is a Raw Foods Diet?
The thought process behind a raw food diet is that you shouldn’t cook the foods you eat because doing so kills healthy enzymes and negatively impacts other nutrients. Remember mom boiling your carrots then pouring the water down the drain with all those vitamins and minerals? That’s part of the thinking behind many raw foods diets. However, science doesn’t support what might seem like a common-sense eating principle.
Heating Foods Improves Nutrient Absorption
A study by Rutgers University found when 48 vegetables were tested, the body absorbed iron better from 37 of them when they were heated. The body absorbed five to six times more iron, for example, from some vegetables when heated, according to the study.
What About Enzymes?
One of the claims of raw diet proponents is that cooking foods kills the enzymes in them that are necessary for digestion. In fact, the opposite is sometimes true, according to Cornell University professor, Dennis Miller. Miller pointed out that while cooking does kill some enzymes in food, the enzyme responsible for digestion are already present in your digestive system, not in the foods you’re eating.
Raw vs. Organic vs. Whole Foods
A raw food diet removes potentially unhealthy additives and preservatives, pesticides, growth hormones and trans fats. But you can do that by eating an organic or whole foods diet instead of going raw.
May raw diets place more emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and grains than animal products, based on the health concerns of handling and preparing raw meat, fish, and poultry. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables can improve heart health, but you can do that without going raw.
Eating raw foods may cause digestion problems, according to Dr. Henry D. Janowitz in his book, “Good Food for Bad Stomachs.” Cooking foods helps break down dietary fiber, which allows your body to absorb more nutrients. For example, you can only digest 30 percent of potato starch if you eat the potato raw, as compared to a 98 percent absorption rate when the potato is cooked.
Some Rawists recommend you consume unpasteurized dairy products such as raw milk and cheese. The Mayo Clinic’s website points out that prior to 1987, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required milk to be pasteurized to kill bacteria such as e-coli and salmonella, 25 percent of food-borne illnesses came from raw milk. Since 1987, the percentage of dairy outbreaks causing those illnesses has dropped to 1 percent, with 70 percent of those cases coming from raw milk and cheese. Handling raw meat, fish, and poultry can also lead to food poisoning if you don’t use proper sanitary techniques when cooking and preparing these foods. Certain foods, such as kidney beans, are toxic if eaten raw.
Eating more fresh, whole and organic foods can’t hurt, and will most likely result in reducing the amount of unhealthful ingredients you get in processed foods. Should you give up cooked foods? If you rely on the nutritional claims of some Rawists, you may not get the nutrients you need in your diet. Try steaming or roasting vegetables instead of boiling them. Eat organic meats and poultry and buy wild caught fish if you’re concerned about additives and preservatives.