Raw diets and their potential benefits

Published 11:28 am Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Today, I’d like to elaborate on “raw diets,” a subject of interest from last week’s. Let’s explore just what raw diets involve and some of their possible healthful benefits. Next week, we’ll examine some of the cons and drawbacks associated with these eating styles.

Raw diets, also known as “raw foodism” or “rawism” is the dietary practice of eating only or mostly food that is uncooked and unprocessed. A food is considered raw if it has not been heated to temperatures above 104 – 118 F. Some folks associate the custom of raw diets as pertaining to vegans, and they’d be partially right, but there are different classifications of rawism, with several sub-categories.

The three broad types of raw food diets include the raw vegan diet, the raw vegetarian diet, and the raw omnivorous diet. Though the raw vegan diet isn’t new, it has gained recent popularity. This diet combines the principles of veganism with those of raw foodism. While some decide to follow this eating plan for religious, ethical, or environmental reasons, many choose it for purported health benefits. Like veganism, the raw vegan diet excludes all foods of animal origin and dictates foods be eaten completely raw, or heated to temperatures not to exceed 104 – 118 F. Foodstuffs on this diet include fresh, juiced, and dehydrated fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, uncooked grains and legumes (sprouted or soaked), cold pressed oils, and fermented foods like miso, kimchi, and sauerkraut.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The raw vegetarian diet is similar to the raw vegan diet, except many who practice this do consume raw eggs or dairy. These are also known as “ovo” vegetarians (ovo comes from the Latin word for egg), and “lacto” vegetarians (lacto is a prefix meaning milk).

The raw omnivorous diet (meaning consumption of both plant and animal-based foods), which is less followed, comprises exclusive consumption of raw meats, fruits, and vegetables, as well as seed, nuts, cold pressed oils, uncooked grains and legumes, and fermented whole foods.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that some on a raw eating regimen experience health benefits including weight loss, improved vitality, increased energy, lowered blood pressure, and enhanced overall health. However, folks interpret raw food eating methods and what they mean in different ways. Some add small portions of cooked foods, while others eat none. Others feel that raw foods afford the most nutritious and simplest, cost-effective way to eat. Many feel that without heat processing, their foods are as close to form as they arise in nature. The idea is that heating food destroys its nutrients and natural enzymes. Enzymes are protein chemicals that act as catalysts to bring about specific biochemical reactions.

There are a few advantages derived from raw diets. First, it emphasizes unprocessed foods. Diets that include large amounts of foods that have been prepared, treated and refined may result in the practice of overeating, which leads to weight gain. In addition, raw foods have an association with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cognitive decline. Second, raw diets are low in added sugars. While it is true that some raw diets may still be high in natural sugars (remember, sugar is sugar, regardless of where it originates), sugar concentrations from natural sources are usually lower than that of manufactured foods.

Raw diets are also high in fiber. Staples of a raw diet, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes, are naturally high in fiber content. High fiber diets are associated with healthy digestion and lowered risk for heart disease, stroke, hypertension (high blood pressure), and certain cancers. Modern food processing techniques sometimes strip foods of their natural dietary fiber, leaving them with only a fraction of the fiber found in whole foods. Lastly, a raw diet may be low in sodium. Table salt is technically not allowed on raw food diets, but other salts, seasonings and spices are. Himalayan salt holds about a third less sodium than regular table salt. Celtic and all other sea salts contain the same concentrations of sodium (40%) as refined salt, but since sea salt crystals are larger, less will fit in a measuring device such as a spoon or shaker, resulting in less sodium per serving by volume. Also, Himalayan and sea salts do provide additional dietary minerals.

David Crocker is a nutritionist and master personal trainer. Questions? Email David at dwcrocker77@gmail.com or text to 864-494-6215.