Can raw food diets improve health, slow ageing and increase energy? These are big benefits that need further investigation, however let’s start at the beginning, what is a raw food diet in its purest form? A raw diet consists of foods such as grains, seeds, nuts, beans, fruit and vegetables that haven’t been heated above 40 degrees. Raw food advocates suggest cooking destroys enzymes that are essential to human health and without those enzymes our minds and bodies are not getting the appropriate blend of life supporting benefits. There are also many variations of the raw food diet for example the 80/10/10 (80% carbs from fruit and veg 10% protein from leafy greens and 10% from fats such as nuts) known as the ‘high carb raw vegan.’ Testimonials have been said to potentially cure a number of ailments ranging from skin conditions to IBS and even chronic disease such as cancer hence why this is such an interesting and growing area of research and popularity.
Denaturing of enzymes through cooking may be a potential issue, albeit hard to equate when considering that food is heated and exposed to acid when entering the stomach in normal digestion that has a similar detrimental effect on the food enzymes. However, heating food at high temperatures has been shown to decrease mineral and vitamin content therefore decreasing the benefit of nutritional absorption.
The increase in processed foods and meat in most people’s daily diets has meant that a traditional diet when compared to a raw food diet is dramatic in terms of weight control, energy levels, and concentration ability. This is less about the impact of cooked versus non-cooked foods, and more about having a highly plant-based diet without processed foods and heavy meat intake that may subsequently aid digestion and improve general wellbeing.
As with many aspects of life, there is no hard and fast rule for each of us. Food availability in our day-to-day lives vary, each of our routines and activities are different and therefore our diets are tailored according to all these factors. The old adage of what you put in is what you will get out is quite apt, if we put fresh, plant-based, non-processed food in, we will be more nourished and feel great due to easy digestion and absorption of fibre, vitamins and minerals. There is also the additional benefit to our surrounding environment of eating more plant-based food. Animal meat and processed food products both require large energy resources for growing or production. This impacts the global environment when compared to traditional plant based growing. For the long term sustainability of the global food supply eating green or at least more green will help reduce the impact on the surrounding environment and future food supply, every little will help!
Modern society is in the process of developing the ‘now culture’ where you can get almost anything at the touch of a button and it is available on demand. We all have busy lives both work and socially, and technology allows us to be constantly connected and have information at our fingertips immediately. With this in mind it is no surprise that eating habits have been impacted. The ‘now culture’ has driven fast food, processed food and ready meals that are an easy solution to diminishing times spent around the table.
However a raw food diet is the fastest food option you can consume – pick, wash and eat!
Cultures from all around the world have humans that live to a similar age regardless of diet. One of the oldest living women was 120+ from France and ate chocolate and red wine. Amazonian tribes are healthy, as are those who eat a meat-based diet in areas where vegetables are scarce, therefore, as with many things in life, the key is balance. A raw food diet is an extreme way of achieving great health benefits and if all of us can eat a little rawer each day we will help ourselves improve our wellbeing and help the environment for now and future generations.
Professor David Russell is founder and chairman of the Russell Partnership