When is a Fad Not a Fad?: The Raw Food Diet
By Claire Gibson
A raw food diet is the latest in a long line of health food fads that supposedly improves everything from sleep and energy, to digestion, and even mental health. With more and more raw food restaurants popping up all over the world, including Planet Raw in West Hollywood and Quintessence in New York, it’s safe to say, there may be something to this fad. However, although the scientific benefits of a raw food diet are genuine, could other aspects, such as possible weight loss, lead to or trigger underlying health issues, such as eating disorders?
What is a Raw Food Diet?
A raw food diet, or raw ‘foodism’, is generally the consumption of exclusively raw and unprocessed foods not heated above 104 – 115 degrees Fahrenheit so that the enzymes, which aid digestion and break down nutrients, remain intact, allowing the body to conserve its energy and use the nutrients more efficiently. There are several types of raw food dieters: raw vegans, who consume raw food without eating any animal products; raw vegetarians, who consume raw food without meat but do consume animal products, such as raw eggs and milk; raw omnivores who eat both raw meat and non-meat dishes; and raw carnivores who exclusively eat raw meat products.
The Benefits of Raw Food
One of the main benefits of raw foodism is said to be the increased amount of energy. This happens because less energy is needed to break down the foods, such as fruits, as they only contain simple sugars. Also, the vitamins such as Vitamins A, C, and K, along with fibre, found in oranges and spinach improve your immune and digestive system, decreasing your chances of getting ill.
Another huge potential benefit of eating raw food is a decrease in the chance of heart or cardiovascular disease. The majority of a raw diet consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts and pulses, which lack the trans, saturated, processed fats and salts, contained in fried, processed, high fat foods, which lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
One of the primary factors in attracting people to the raw food diet is weight loss. Weight loss is achieved when your body is burning more calories than it takes to run, resulting in the body turning to its fat reserves for energy. The main ingredients of a raw food diet are vegetables and fruits, the two least calorific foods per bite, resulting in the dieter’s calorie intake to be lower than if they were eating foods higher in calories. A lot of vegetables and a few fruits, such as strawberries and broccoli, actually are said to have negative calories, as their fiber content means they take more energy for the body to burn, than they actually contain. They’re also high in water and keep your blood sugar at an adequate level so that you’re satisfied and less likely to snack, also aiding weight loss. However, the weight loss can become dangerous; up to 90% of eating disorders have developed from what was originally just a diet. The compliments and self-validation of continual weight loss is addictive; the stress of constantly planning your meals can turn into anxiety; forming a relationship with ‘good’ foods comforting and forming a hatred towards ‘bad’ foods damaging. All this combined with possible malnourishment if you’re not meeting your calorific needs can reap havoc with your brain, possibly resulting in an eating disorder, such as Anorexia Nervosa. Therefore it’s important to embark on a new dietary regime with a view improvingyour overall health rather than becoming fixated solely on weightloss.
Where can I Eat Raw Food?
You may feel that if you embarked on a raw foods diet, you’d be stuck eating lettuce leaves for the rest of your life. However, there are many ways that raw food can be mixed and manipulated to create attractive, tasty, filling dishes in no time at all. One such example is the raw veggie burger, which involves blending together sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, red onion, avocado, dill, parsley and garlic together, squeezing out the excess juice moulding into patties.
As with any new diet, a doctor should be consulted beforehand. No matter how healthy it may seem, there are usually side effects or risks involved. Do your research and make an informed decision before changing your lifestyle too drastically and keep a level head throughout. If you’ve previously suffered from eating issues, despite not ever developing a diagnosed disorder, it’s wise to give extreme diets a wide berth unless instructed to by trained professionals in case it triggers you into something more serious and life threatening.