Published: 10/04/2012 - Updated: 11/05/2017
When food is cooked, grilled, deep-fried, baked, roasted or grilled over charcoal, is considered "dead", i.e., the food simply loses vitamins, enzymes, amino acids (protein), antioxidants and essential minerals that fuel all human body’s systems and defend it against cancer.
The raw food diet is based on the belief that the healthiest food for the body is the one that is uncooked. Although most food in the diet is eaten raw, heating food is acceptable as long as the temperature remains below 104 to 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cooking is made to denature the enzymes present in food naturally. According to proponents of raw foods, enzymes are the life force of a food, which helps us digest food and absorb nutrients. If we eat too much cooked food, our bodies are forced to work harder to produce more enzymes. Over time, lack of food enzymes lead to digestive problems, nutrient deficiency, accelerated aging and weight gain.
Cooking food can diminish its nutritional value. For example, the cancer-fighting compounds in broccoli, sulforaphanes, are significantly reduced when broccoli is cooked. Some vitamins, such as vitamin C and folic acid, are destroyed by heat. Other foods, however, may be healthier after cooking, because the fibrous portion is decomposed. For example, cooked tomatoes contain three to four times more lycopene than raw tomatoes.
Cooking also promotes the formation of potentially harmful compounds into the food while cooking at high temperatures, such as advanced glycation products and heterocyclic amines.
What do I have to eat on a raw food diet?
There are different ways people follow a raw food diet. Most people who follow a raw food diet are vegan. Some consume raw animal products such as raw milk, cheese made from raw milk, sashimi, raw fish, or carpaccio (raw meat). Some people eat only raw foods, while others include cooked food for variety and convenience. The percentage of raw food is usually 70 percent or more of the diet.
How do I prepare raw foods?
Soaking and germination
The raw beans, legumes, and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors that are usually destroyed by cooking. However, the nutrients can be released by soaking (germination) or sprouting them.
Germination involves soaking in water for a specified time period. Although recommended germination times vary from 2 hours (cashews) to a day (for mung bean), some raw food advocates say the overnight soak is sufficient and more convenient. It is important to start with raw and dry seeds, preferably organic, as non-organic seeds may have pesticides and compounds you don’t want in your body.
To germinate, rinse beans, legumes and seeds and place them in a glass container. Add purified water with normal temperature and soak overnight. Mung beans, however, requires a total of 24 hours. Soak twice before use.
There are two main types of sprouts: bean sprouts, and green sprouts. Some of the most common are: alfalfa, soybeans, lentils, mustard, broccoli, watercress, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, clover and onion.
After germination, seeds, beans and legumes can sprout. After they have soaked, the final stage of germination continues, place them in a container for sprouting. Leave them at room temperature for the recommended time. The bean seed or legume will open and grow an sprout of the same. Rinse sprouts and drain well. They can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
Food can be heated, never above 118 F, using a machine called a dehydrator to simulate sun drying. These are closed containers with heating elements to heat at low temperatures. A fan inside the dryer blows hot air through the food, which is spread on trays. Dehydrators can be used to make raisins, dried tomatoes, chips, kale crackers, bread, croutons, and apricots.
Mix your food
Food can be chopped with a food processor, or blender them to make smoothies, pesto, soup and hummus recipes.
You can ferment fresh vegetables in a sealed container. In the fermentation, the level of acidity increases naturally, and the sugars and starches in food begin to decompose and form lactic and acetic acids, which in turn maintain the vegetables without spoilage. After that, you can keep them in the refrigerator to add more life to these tasty treats.
Natural fruit juices can be good allies, refreshing and rich in vitamins and minerals, with a quality that never would get a processed product.
Benefits of raw food diet
People who follow a raw food diet have health benefits, including:
- Increased energy
- Clearer and smoother skin
- Weight loss
- Reduction of disease risk
Raw food diet contains fewer trans fats and saturated fat than the typical Western diet. It is also low in sodium and sugar and high in potassium, magnesium, folic acid, fiber, vitamin A and antioxidants that promote health. These properties are associated with reduced risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
The raw food diet is also believed to have a favorable acid-alkali balance, being low in acid forming foods. Too much acidity in the body is believed to result in the disease.
In addition to the immediate benefits, the raw food diet may theoretically slow the aging process and reduce inflammation as it contains less harmful compounds.