Debunking the Trend: The Raw Food Diet

Debunking the Trend: The Raw Food Diet

set of fruits and vegetables isolated on white background


By Sheridan Jonas, Contributing Blogger

Limiting cooking temperatures to less than 118 degrees, gives your oven a break on The Raw Food Diet. Instead, this diet emphasizes raw fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds. But is forgoing heat the best way to eat in order to lose weight?

Is Cooking Bad?
The theory behind The Raw Food Movement is that cooking foods kill nutrients and natural enzymes. Some forms of cooking can break down the cell walls in plants, releasing some of the vitamins stored inside. For example, about two-thirds of the vitamin C in spinach is lost during cooking. But, this is not true for every food and every vitamin and plant chemicals. For example, cooked tomatoes have higher lycopene levels than uncooked. Lycopene is an antioxidant that helps to prevent your cells from damage. Additionally, fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K are not as susceptible to loss during cooking. Ultimately, a combination of raw and cooked food from a variety of food groups can ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need.

Myth: Eating raw is boring
Raw foods include anything that’s uncooked like meat, eggs, fish, fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and unpasteurized dairy foods. Because of the no (or very light) cooking rule, this diet relies on food processors, dehydrators, freezers and blenders to prep food. These methods can put a fun, creative spin on incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet. With the right recipe, cooking and eating raw can be delicious! Some Raw Foods Diet cookbooks include: Eat Raw Not Cooked by Stacy Stowers and Raw: The Uncook Book by Juliano Brotman.

The Good News
Many people can lose weight on The Raw Food Diet. Usually this is due to the switch form high calorie processed foods to lower calorie foods like fruits and vegetables. Additionally, eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will provide you with lots of essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

The Bad News
Making the choice to eat very uncooked or raw meat, eggs and fish is a potential concern for foodborne illness. Some of the reason we cook these types of foods are to get rid of harmful microorganisms that can make you sick. Milk is pasteurized as well for the same reason. Raw milk can carry bacteria like Listeria, which can cause miscarriage or stillbirth during the third trimester of pregnancy.

If you choose to follow a vegan-based raw food diet, without any diary, meat, or fish, foodborne illness is no longer a concern, but some nutrient deficiencies are. These include calcium, iron, zinc, and protein. Before embarking on a vegan-based raw foods diet, it is important to carefully plan out a balanced diet to avoid any nutritional deficiencies. A medical doctor can help to monitor your nutrient levels, while a dietitian can help plan a balanced diet. Together this can help to determine if supplementation is needed. You can find a registered dietitian in your area by going to the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics website and clicking on the green button “FIND A REGISTERED DIETITIAN.”

In addition, following The Raw Foods Diet for weight loss is not easy to do long term. For one, it is tough to eat as a family. Young kids have a weaker immune system and all meats, eggs, and fish should be cooked to avoid foodborne illness. Additionally, it is hard to eat out or on the road, as well as social functions where many cooked foods are served.

Should You Try It?
The emphasis on consuming more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is positive, but restricting meats, eggs, fish and dairy products could lead to deficiencies. Raw food recipes are new and exciting ways to include healthy foods into your diet, but following this The Raw Food Diet for weight loss isn’t something that’s realistic for most people long term.

Sheridan Jonas is a junior at Miami University studying nutrition with a focus in dietetics. She plans on working towards becoming and registered dietitian post-graduation and furthering her passion in nutrition.

1 Comment
  • Ryan
    Posted at 09:34h, 04 February Reply

    Great blog, Toby. I myself have often been tempted to try a raw food diet, but you raise some interesting concerns regarding nutrient deficiencies and harmful micro-organisms. Addressing the former, I recently wrote an article about Baobab Powder, which can read here – just wondered what your thoughts were on the superfood, and whether you thought it could potentially fill the nutritional gaps where the raw food diet is concerned?

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