The warmer months are approaching and have begun (hooray!) and also people may start to gravitate towards specific diets and lifestyles in attempt to look and feel their best on the beach, in swim suits, or in tanks and shorts. Plant-based lifestyles and raw food diets are two of the most common lifestyles I see gain in popularity during the warmer months- not only because of the health benefits of some aspects of these diets, but also because the produce is in season making it much easier to access (check back at our spring produce post for more).
Let’s focus on one of the lessor known lifestyles, raw food and the raw food movement. First things first, what’s raw food? Raw food, if you want to get technical about it, is considered raw if it’s never been processed nor heated above 115-118 degrees F, the theory behind this is that all natural enzymes will be destroyed if heated to higher degrees. Some vitamins such as vitamin C are very heat sensitive, meaning they stay intact the best when eaten raw- on the other hand vitamin A rich foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes actually increase in nutrition when cooked. There are great things about this diet that can easily be incorporated into anyone’s lifestyle.
Raw foods that are eaten in a typical raw food lifestyle include the majority of the diet coming from plants (i.e. vegetables and fruits), nuts, seeds, sprouted legumes, sprouted grains, raw and dehydrated snacks, coconut oil, avocados, and superfoods. Technically in an “all raw” diet, nothing is cooked; therefore this is a vegan diet. I will say however there is an “all raw” movement which incorporates animal proteins… eaten raw. Again, I can’t say nor recommend that this is something that promotes optimal health, and it can actually be dangerous by putting yourself at risk for some unpleasant food borne illness, parasites, digestive distress, etc.
As with all diets and lifestyles, you can always use this raw food movement as a template to branch off of! For example, using percentages such as 50-80% raw with cooked foods here and there at your desire, including animal proteins if that fits your lifestyle. Or maybe eating raw for you is incorporating one large dark leafy green raw salad per day- that’s a fantastic way to start! Set yourself small step goals to increase the amounts of raw produce in your diet, especially unprocessed and whole food fats like avocados, coconut oil, nuts, and seeds.
Take home points: eating more raw vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats is always a great way to increase the nutrient density in your diet, not to mention the fiber which promotes optimal and healthy digestion! There’s no right or wrong percentage of raw foods that needs to be incorporated into your diet to promote optimal health- although I would suggest staying above 0% raw foods is a good start ;)
Who lives or has tried a raw foods lifestyle? What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate raw foods into your diet?
Eat well, live well, be well!
McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN
Nutrition Stripped [nutritionstripped.com]