A raw food diet is one composed either wholly or largely of uncooked food. People on this kind of diet generally set a minimum goal of at least 75% raw foods and 25% or less cooked food, many achieving an average of 90% raw food. Foods that can be eaten to satisfy the 75% portion include fruits (fresh and dried), vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds and fresh juices.
Soy products do not feature prominently in the raw food diet as is often the case in alternative or vegetarian diets.
The remaining 25% (by weight or calories) should come from primarily cooked vegetables. However, because this diet is sometimes difficult to maintain, many find themselves eating foods that are less than ideal. The justification for this is that it is better to be partially successful than a complete failure. There are benefits to be received from maintaining this diet even for short periods of time. Foods that are generally banned are meat, dairy products, fish, fried foods, foods containing preservatives and processed foods.
Foods are generally considered raw if they have not been heated to over 45°C (113°F). The naturally-occurring enzymes begin to be deactivated above that temperature, so foods dehydrated in a dehydrator at low temperature are considered raw.
The benefits of a raw food diet include:
The raw food diet is attracting more recognition following the discovery of phytochemicals, antioxidants, bioflavonoids and the other cancer-fighting, rejuvenating elements in fruits and vegetables. We now know that the abundance of nutrients that are found in raw fruits and vegetables reduce the incidence of many diseases. Many people suffering from such serious conditions as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease have healed themselves through natural means including a raw food diet.
A long-term raw food diet should be supplemented as the intake of vitamins D, B2, B3 (niacin), B12 and the minerals zinc and calcium are typically low. A further consequence is the lower than average protein intake. Coupled with a low nutrient energy intake, the protein consumed may be being used as a supplementary energy source by the body, thus reducing the available dietary protein even further. As might be expected, the intake of antioxidant vitamins A, E and C is remarkably high. However, looking at the nutrient intake as a whole, the low intakes of certain essential nutrients coupled with the known physiological consequences cannot be outweighed by the positive aspects and should be taken seriously.
In addition, since a raw food diet high in fruit content produces somewhat more dental erosion than other diets, greater care should be taken to rinse or brush the teeth more frequently, especially after citrus consumption. [Caries Res 1999;33(1): pp.74-80]
The more you can learn about this type of diet, the more likely you will be successful in following it. One resource, among many, is Living Foods for Optimum Health : A Highly Effective Program to Remove Toxins and Restore Your Body to Vibrant Health by Brian R. Clement and Theresa Foy Digeronimo. This book makes the latest research and instructions available to all.
There are many retreats where one can experience this new way of eating while vacationing at the same time. Meeting new people who are eating the same way will help provide the insight and training that you may need to successfully make this transition. Many of them, some of which have been around for many years, can be found by searching the internet.
Those on a raw food/fruitarian diet after bariatric surgery must plan their diet extremely carefully because the requirements of high protein and low sugar content are not easily met on this dietary regime. Although raw foodists and fruitarians need not worry about consuming tough/rubbery meats, high-fat foods, fried food, junk food or sticky foods, they do need to be especially careful to avoid crunchy foods such as raw fruits & vegetables, and nuts. Fruit peel should be removed.
Iodine is typically undesirably low (about 50mcg per day compared to a recommended level of about 150mcg) in vegan diets unless supplements, iodine-rich seaweeds or foods containing such seaweeds are consumed. The low iodine levels in many plant foods reflect the low iodine levels in the soil. About half the iodine consumption of omnivores comes from dairy products.
In October of 2003, one of many articles appeared on iodine deficiency in vegetarians and vegans [Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 47 (2003): p.183]. Quoting from the paper: "One fourth of the vegetarians and 80% of the vegans suffer from iodine deficiency..." Only 9% of the meat-eaters were deficient. The milk drinkers were protected in part because iodine-containing disinfectants are used to clean the milk processing equipment. None of the vegetarians and vegans were eating sea vegetables, and none were using iodized salt – they were all using "natural" sea salt, which has significantly less iodine.
For raw-food vegans who have not been careful about consuming enough B12 (in the form of supplements or fortified foods), it would be wise to have B12 levels assessed and to commence dietary supplementation immediately. Some 80% of those who have been vegan for over 2 years have a functional B12 deficiency – the figure for raw food vegans is almost certainly higher, unless they make a point of not excessively washing their fruits and vegetables.
Raw food vegans who don't eat sea vegetables or use iodized salt should consider supplementing their diet with iodine. Using excess salt is not good for the bones, but if you do use table salt, use iodized salt.
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