Raw Diet: The Feel-good Fad?
There is no doubt about it: Natural foods are almost always better for you than processed foods are. That has inspired a host of natural foods in supermarkets, as well as diets that strive to go back to the most natural foods possible.
In the late 1800s, Doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner discovered that eating raw apples cured his jaundice. That discovery led to many experiments with eating raw foods, and since then, the raw food diet has been embraced by many as a better way to eat.
The raw food diet is not a weight loss plan, but rather a lifestyle choice that requires consistent and clear attention. As worries about the environment and chemicals in foods have become more common, the raw food diet has picked up steam. Those who are very dedicated might make the diet work for them, but the lack of convenience and the desire for more varied foods might lead some to fall from the raw food bandwagon.
Going all natural
There are many forms of the raw diet, but they all hold to the same basic principle: No food is cooked. Proponents believe that cooking destroys vital nutrients in food, and so foods should be eaten in their natural state. This means that the diet, by its very nature, consists of mostly plants. If animal foods are included, they are to be consumed raw. The same holds true for products that come from animals, such as milk or eggs. But there are some versions of the raw food diet that are vegan, and thus eliminate any products that come from animals.
The good news about this diet is the wide variety of veggies and fruits that can be eaten. Those who follow the raw food diet get a good supply of fiber and vital nutrients from plant sources, and that's a great thing in a society where many think "eat your vegetables" sounds like torture. The diet also cuts out processed foods, freeing your body from artificial sweeteners, preservatives and trans fats. The diet is naturally low in sodium, saturated fats and sugar.
In addition, the diet is known for being low-calorie, as many plants offer only a small amount of calories. In fact, most who follow the plan consume half the calories they would on a cooked food diet, according to U.S. News and World Report (health.usnews.com). The diet also appeals to those who want to help the environment, particularly those who have an eye toward preventing animal cruelty.
Raw food: good idea or bad diet?
So what's the downside? There are a few. There are some foods, such as many beans or lentils, that must be cooked. Therefore, these powerhouses of protein and nutrients are off-limits to those on a raw food diet. Foods like beans and lentils are also quite affordable, unlike some of the organic produce and other natural foods that this diet requires.
Speaking of money, those on the raw food diet make use of blenders, food dehydrators and food processors. Since these are used quite often in raw food preparation, those who plan to stay on the diet for an extended time will want to invest in higher quality products, which will likely incur more costs.
There is also the question of what bacteria might be lurking in raw foods. When some foods are eaten raw or undercooked, there is a very real possibility of food poisoning. Food dehydrators, which are used often in the raw food diet, reach temperatures between 115 and 118 degrees. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) claims that cooking food at these low temperatures does not kill food-borne bacteria, WebMD reported (webmd.com).
In a world where tempting food is everywhere, a raw food diet can be difficult to sustain. Since very few restaurants cater to a raw food diet, eating out and social events can become an issue. The lack of variety can also play a part in making this a fad diet for some.
Finally, the diet might be detrimental to those with certain medical conditions, or those who are pregnant or nursing, as the diet might not provide enough of the proper foods necessary for optimum health. The diet is not recommended for infants and children by the ADA.