The consumption of raw foods has been gaining popularity. Uncooked, unprocessed and organic foods are promoted by “raw foodists” who typically believe that the greater the percentage of raw food in the diet, the greater the health benefits. Changing to a raw food diet can help with fat reduction, energy levels, cholesterol, digestion, and skin appearance. Yes, this diet can be very beneficial for your health. However, there are health concerns about Raw Food to be aware of.
Raw Food & Nutrient Deficiencies
Because the raw food diet is based on unprocessed and uncooked plant foods, this diet is very rich in nutrients needed for health improvement. Yet, a raw vegan diet may be deficient in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, protein and calories. This is why it is advisable to supplement this kind of diet.
See the study from the Journal of Nutrition: Vitamin B-12 Status of Long-Term Adherents of a Strict Uncooked Vegan Diet (“Living Food Diet”) Is Compromised
In fact, cooking tenderizes meat, softens plant foods, reduces water content, increases the proportion of edible material and makes food molecules more available to the body. The bio-availability of some vitamins and antioxidants are increased by cooking. For example, cooking carrots and tomatoes increases the absorption of some of the antioxidants they contain.
Raw Food & Food Poisoning
Food poisoning (also called foodborne illness) is a health risk for all people eating raw foods, and increased demand for raw foods is associated with greater incidence of foodborne illness, especially for raw meat, fish, and shellfish.
There are foods that are or can be toxic when raw:
- Buckwheat greens
- Kidney beans, including sprouts
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Some types of raw cassava or cassava flour.
- Raw eggs
- Raw seeds of the genus lathyrus (peas)
- Raw brassica species
- Apricot kernels
- Raw parsnips
- Raw meat
- Raw Milk
- Raw sweet potato, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, rutabaga, canola oil, cassava, pinenuts, mustard, millet, soybeans and peanuts
Raw Food & Pesticides
Unfortunately, the risk to absorb pesticides is higher on a raw food diet unless you buy only organic produce. Just washing vegetables and fruits is not enough to ensure produce clean enough for consumption. It helps decrease the pesticide residues present on the surface of the vegetables, but the majorities of pollutants are absorbed into the plant and can’t be just washed away. Some pesticides are specifically created to stick to the surface of the crops and they don’t come out by washing. Peeling can help eliminating some of the chemicals but not all, and a lot of important substances will be discarded with the skin.
According to the Food Standards Agency of UK, processing, including cooking, generally reduces the level of pesticides in food. This is because processing can break down the pesticides, or remove the part of the plant that carries the residue…
What are the real risks with pesticides? Laboratory studies show that pesticides can cause health problems, such as birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects that might occur over a long period of time. These effects depend on how toxic the pesticide is and how much of it is consumed.
If you opt for a raw food diet, it is advisable to choose organic foods as much as possible and be aware of the pesticide load that produce generally carries: Peach, Apple, Sweet Bell Pepper, Celery, Nectarine, Strawberries, and Cherries have the highest pesticide load. See the Shopper’s guide to pesticides
A study from the Agronomy for Sustainable Development concluded in September 2009 that between 94 and 100 per cent of organic food does not contain any pesticide residues, and organic vegetables have about 50 per cent less nitrates. See:French study says organic food is healthier
How to Avoid Health Problems with Raw Food?
- Always wash hands before preparing and eating your meals.
- Buy only foods from sources you trust.
- Refrigerate your food.
- Don’t leave edibles out of the fridge for more than two hours.
- Use food grade hydrogen peroxide to disinfect your food (1 drop is more effective than cooking).
- Buy organic foods to avoid pesticides in food.
Raw foodists believe that with sufficient food energy, essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals, variety and density, people of all ages can be successful at eating raw foods. However eating only raw foods can be quite aggressive for your system and is not appropriate for everybody, for example pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, people with anemia, who have bone issues or who live in colder climates.
A raw food diet is a good way to detoxify the body and get rid of the toxins, but care is required in planning this kind of diet.
Other Useful Information about Raw Food
- Troubleshooting: Avoiding and Overcoming Problems in Raw & Living-Foods Diets
- Raw Foodism (Wikipedia.com)