Should You Try the Raw Food Diet? Well, That’s a Complicated Question

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keep a healthy diet and indeed fueling your workouts go hand in hand But it’s not always easy to find an eating plan that meets all your needs. Most diets stipulate what foods you can eat, not how they are prepared. Meanwhile, the raw food diet, a fad, plant-based eating plan that often overlaps with veganism—focuses specifically on cooking: consists of most or all raw, unprocessed foods.

But is the raw food diet really healthy? For one thing, it will force you to eat a bunch of plants, replacing processed ingredients with whole-grain foods. On the other hand, you won’t be able to safely enjoy many staple foods.

If you are thinking of giving plant-based, lifestyle without cooking a chance, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into. Here’s everything you need to know about the raw food diet, according to dieticians.

What is the raw food diet?

The raw food diet is made up of plants (and sometimes raw animal products) that haven’t been heated beyond a certain temperature, he explains. Susan Levin, MS, RD, CSSD, director of nutritional education at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The exact definition of “raw” varies from person to person, he notes, but 118°F seems to be the upper limit for most people.

In its strictest form, the diet consists entirely of raw foods, unprocessed food; some people allocate a certain percentage of their food intake for not raw foodsays Levin. Raw veganism is the most common form of the diet, but you can also consume raw, unprocessed animal products such as fish, eggs, and milk.

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“The goal is to eat food in its natural state,” he explains. Pam Fullenweider, RD, MS, a registered dietitian. “The theory is that the heat from cooking destroys enzymes necessary for digestion and creates toxins in our bodies. There is no scientific evidence to support this idea.”

You can eat vegetables, fruitsprouted beans, sprouted grains, nuts and seeds on the raw food diet. Blending, juicing, drying, fermenting, pressing, and soaking are all acceptable methods of preparation, which means that oils, nut butters, nut milks, Cold drinksand dried fruit is fair game.

What are the benefits of the raw food diet?

Obviously, eating more plants comes with a host of health benefits. “Because diet is generally a plant based dietincludes cool, raw fruits and vegetables containing antioxidants, vitamins, mineralsand fiberthat help reduce inflammation in our bodies,” says Fullenweider.

Because plants are rich in fiberThey digest slowly and help you feel fuller for longer, reducing cravings between meals. They also have fewer calories, which means this diet is likely to stimulate weightlossFullenweider explains, especially if you forgo processed foods altogether.

And plant-based diets have long been known to be linked to a lower chance of chronic disease, adds Levin. A study 2019for example, found that plant-based diets were associated with lower rates of cardiovascular diseasecardiovascular mortality and even early all-cause mortality in middle-aged adults.

What are the drawbacks of the raw food diet?

It’s not all good news, though: The raw food diet also comes with some serious risks. Fullenweider calls the diet “very restrictive” and notes that it could lead to calcium, iron, proteinand b12 vitamin and D shortcomings. This is supported by a 2005 studywho found that while a raw material vegetarian diet led to less body fat overall, it was also linked to lower nutrient intake and low bone mass.

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Plus, there’s a reason most people cook their meals: “Consuming raw animal foods is dangerous and never recommended,” says Fullenweider. (All meat should be cooked to internal temperatures between 145°F and 165°Fdepending on the type, to prevent foodborne illness, according to the Food and Drug Administration).

Some people may also not know how to get the most out of their food, Levin explains: If you don’t soak and sprout the beans and grainFor example, you may not eat them at all, leaving you without a high-calorie option. Plus, he adds, “cooking some foods actually makes their nutrients more available when eaten.”

Should you try the raw food diet?

This is a complicated question. Fullenweider doesn’t think the diet is worth trying. Instead, he recommends the Mediterranean diet, another plant-based eating approach that prioritizes whole foods, but allows you to cook your meals. It is also associated with heart health and weightlossand you run a much lower risk of nutritional deficiencies, explains Fullenweider.

Levin, for his part, is more optimistic. “I’ve seen people thrive on a raw food diet, so I’m hesitant to dismiss it as a bad idea,” he says. However, he stipulates that if he’s going to try it, he needs the right tools at his disposal: Invest in equipment like a dehydrator and blender, and educate yourself on food safety and the risks of soaking and sprouting food.

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