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August 10, 2022 3 min read

The pros and cons of eating a raw food diet

Is eating raw food beneficial, or an impractical fad?

 

What is a raw food diet?

People who follow a raw food diet aim to eat 75%+ raw and unprocessed foods. Some of them will bend the rules a bit, eating cooked meat and fish for example. Purists will only eat raw food, which can either mean limiting the diet to mostly fruit and veg, or eating everything raw.

Fans of raw foodism claim cooking destroys the enzymes in food, so raw is the healthiest way to get nutrients, whereas critics say it’s impractical and can be dangerous.

 

7 food prep methods for a raw food diet

Raw foodism does allow some food prep methods (just not cooking with heat).

  • Blending
  • Juicing
  • Dehydrating
  • Soaking
  • Sprouting
  • Fermenting
  • Pickling

As you can imagine, this means raw food diets are usually limited to vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and some beans. Some raw eaters will eat raw eggs and dairy if they can get hold of it. Others will even eat raw meat and fish but this isn’t typical of a raw diet.

 

What do people eat on a raw food diet?

Most raw foodists aim for a diet that’s 75% raw (or more). Foods that pass the raw-food test include raw fruit, veg, nuts and seeds, soaked or sprouted grains and legumes, dried meats, non-dairy/nut milk, cold pressed oils, fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut etc), and sprouts. Add in raw eggs, dairy, meat and fish if you want!

 

5 reasons to eat raw 

1 Some vegetables are better for digestive health when eaten raw (for example broccoli loses its glucosinolates when cooked)

2 Eating raw usually retains the water content of food which might make it more filling (good news for weight loss)

3 Cooking in water reduces levels of water-soluble vitamins like Vitamin C and the B Vitamins

4 There’s less food prep and clean up time when you eat raw

5 You’ll need much less kitchen equipment and you’ll save on fuel bills!

 

6 reasons not to eat raw

1 Removing cooking methods from meals drastically reduces the variety of meals you can eat

2 Raw eating is pretty impractical and anti-social, almost all meals contain some element of cooking, roasting or baking

3 Eating an entirely raw food diet puts a lot of demand on your digestive system

4 It’s difficult to get enough protein and varied amino acids with a raw diet

5 Pasteurisation and some cooking methods were invented to help us eat more foods without risk of ill health

6 You’d have to live a life without potatoes…

 

Should you eat uncooked vegetables?

Whilst there’s no risk of eating all your vegetables raw, it might not be the optimal way to extract nutrients from the food. Some vegetables actually benefit from being cooked – cooking increases the bioavailability of beta-carotene and lycopene, and reduces lectins and phytic acid in grains.

 

Can you eat raw meat?

Most neutral experts would advise against eating raw meat. It can contain salmonella, listeria, E. coli and campylobacter (all of which are destroyed when meat is cooked properly). Some high-end restaurants might be set up to prepare and serve raw meat safely, but the average kitchen is definitely not.

 

Is it OK to eat raw fish and seafood?

Again, raw fish is commonly eaten in sushi and sashimi restaurants. But it’s very difficult to prep food to this safety level in everyday life. So trying to eat raw fish as part of a long-term and daily raw food diet is not a sustainable idea.

 

Should you ever eat raw eggs?

A few years ago, the Food Standards Agency ruled British hen eggs safe to eat raw. But it’s still a risk, because eggs can still carry salmonella (even though the risk is very low). If you want to eat raw eggs, look for the red stamp of the British Lion quality mark on the shell/

 

How to decide if raw is for you

Raw foodists believe that eating raw is the healthiest way to consume natural foods, without destroying enzymes or “killing” the “aliveness” of the food. But none of this is backed by science. Enzymes in raw food are broken down by the digestive system anyway. 

As with most extreme diets, there’s a grain of truth but the healthiest approach is more balanced – some raw foods (mostly fruit and veg), some fermented and pickled foods, and the rest cooked. What do you think?

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