What is a Raw Food Diet? And What can I Gain from it?

A raw food diet consists of unprocessed vegan food which have not been heated above 46 degrees C, and is therefore considered “raw”. But why are some vegans taking their diet to the next level? And are there any health benefits to a raw food diet?

raw food

The term “raw food diet” has been creeping up more and more often lately, but is this diet really what it says on the tin? Well, in short, yes. A raw food diet consists of unprocessed vegan food which have not been heated above 46 degrees C, and is therefore considered “raw”. But why are some vegans taking their diet to the next level? And are there any health benefits to a raw food diet?

“Raw foodists” believe that cooking foods above 46 degrees C deactivates the enzymes which they contain, reducing their nutritional value significantly. Some even believe that food cooked at high temperatures can be harmful to the body. In contrast, raw foods are said to promote higher energy levels, clearer skin, improved digestion and protection against cancer.

While a raw food diet is often followed by strict vegans, there is no reason for it to become a full-time commitment or a lifestyle choice. Simply incorporating more raw food into your diet each day can be enough to help improve your health.

What can I eat as part of a raw food diet?

A raw food diet may appear quite limiting at first, but there are plenty of nutrient-rich foods which you can eat alone, or as part of a meal. Many “raw foodists” get the majority of their daily nurtition from:

  • raw fruit and vegetables

  • nuts and seeds

  • raw oats and grains

  • fresh herbs and raw spices such as ginger

  • kelp and other seaweeds

  • roots and root vegetables

  • beans and legumes

What about processed foods?

Even the strictest raw food vegans might find it difficult to avoid processed foods altogether. Afterall, many vegan food companies now exist, selling raw food products in alternative and health shops across the UK. Foods which undergo minimal processing and retain their raw nature by being kept away from high temperatures include:

  • unprocessed olives

  • cold pressed oils

  • raw nut butters

  • raw nut milks

  • fermented products such as miso or sauerkraut

  • fruits or vegetables pickled in vinegar

Following a raw food diet can sometimes become confusing and ambiguous. Some raw foods may be overly processed or packed with additives, while foods which have been prepared at high temperatures may remain more pure overall. This is why it is often best to be a little fluid with your choice in diet. A mostly-raw diet can deliver just as many health benefits as a strictly raw diet, but it is often wise to use your best judgement or what you feel you should eat.

Health benefits

The health benefits of eating a mostly, or exclusively raw food diet are numerous. High temperatures have been shown to deactivate not only the plant enzymes found in fruit, vegetables and other foods, but also the essential vitamins and minerals. An increased intake of raw foods can therefore lead to:

  • weight control

  • clearer skin

  • slower rate of ageing in skin

  • stronger hair

  • higher levels of energy

  • stronger immune system and less susceptibility to disease

Transition to a raw food diet

If you aren’t fully convinced by the rationale behind a raw food diet, or you’re simply curious as to whether you would enjoy raw food dishes, there’s no reason to jump into a fully raw food diet head first. Try just one or two meals a week to begin with. This can allow you to try a few recipes and see if you enjoy them- when it comes to a decision like this, it is always wise to trust your taste buds! If you feel raw meals would be easy to fit into your diet and lifestyle, try a few more meals a week.

There is no commitment to making raw food exclusive to your diet and eating just a few raw meals a week can introduce a much higher quantity of vitamins and minerals into your diet whilst helping to reduce your consumption of heavily processed foods.

Another important point to remember is to listen to what your body is telling you. Whether you eat a fully raw diet or are just incorporating more raw food into your meals, it is important to make sure your body is getting enough of the nutrients it needs. With a restricted choice in food, sticking to a raw food diet can sometimes lead people to mistakenly become malnourished. Therefore, it is important to make sure what a raw food diet will deliver the nutrition you need. If your body is giving you warning signs like light-headedness or constant hunger, it would be wise to reconsider this diet and add more variety to your meals.

Kitchen essentials

Following a raw food diet can be quick and convenient with the right equipment in your kitchen. With the addition of so much fruit and vegetables, you’ll find that a lot of chopping, blending and juicing takes place! A good quality food processor will take a lot of the work out of cutting your food into useable pieces. If you don’t want to rely on an electrical appliance to use each day, invest in a set of sharp knives to make cutting up food quick and safe. Blenders and juicers are useful appliances for attaining the nutrients and flavour of fruit and vegetables in liquid form, allowing for greater versatility when preparing food.

Other kitchen appliances which may be useful when following a raw food diet include:

  • food dehydrators- draw the water out of fresh food such as fruit and vegetables, allowing them to last longer

  • solar ovens- allow you to enjoy warm dishes which have been prepared using minimal heat which retains the goodness of raw food.

Lifespan of your food

When following a raw food diet, remember that raw foods won’t keep as long as the processed foods you may be used to eating. To prevent waste, it is important to keep on top of your food’s “use by” dates and to keep your fridge organised in order to make use of everything you buy. For more information on this, follow our tips on how to make your fruit and vegetables last longer.

Image sourced: chickeninthewoods

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