The Benefits of Eating More Raw Foods

Saturday Aug 9, 2014 | BY |
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A raw food diet, an even a high-raw diet, has huge advantages. Otherwise, nobody would do it! (Either as a short-term plan or long-term.)

Let’s take a good look at what the benefits are, but also understand where these benefits come from. Once we are clear about the benefits and what creates them in the raw food diet specifically, we can design an approach that combines the best from both raw and cooked worlds.

Easy weight management

It’s extremely difficult to gain weight eating only or mostly raw fruits and vegetables.

There are two reasons for this.

The first is that fruits and vegetables have an extremely low caloric density. Meaning, that by weight, they contain fewer calories than most other foods.

One pound of raw vegetables contains on average 100 calories.

One pound of fruit contains 250 calories on average.

On the other hand, one pound of bread contains 1500 calories and one pound of lean meat still contains close to 900 calories.

The second reason is that the calories in raw foods are less “accessible” than calories in cooked foods.

Recent research has demonstrated this. (See the book: “Catching Fire”) Cooking pre-digests many foods, even fruit, making the foods more calorie dense.

On average, I’ve found that raw foods contain 15-20% fewer calories than listed values. All of these factors combined make it extremely difficult for anyone to gain weight, and in fact not lose weight, eating only raw foods, unless one includes in larger quantities the few caloric-dense foods that a raw food diet generally allows, such as nuts, seeds, avocados and, to some degree, oils.

Low-toxin diet

A raw vegan diet is an extremely low-toxin diet.

Raw fruits and vegetables are digested almost effortlessly and contribute very little stress to the body. They are also less allergenic than other foods, such as wheat.

Concentrations of pesticides, heavy metals and other measurable toxins are quite low in fresh produce, compared to animal products.

Raw fruits and vegetables are also very alkaline-forming after digestion.

Also, eating more raw food will encourage you to excludes a lot of foods that are potentially carcinogenic: grilled meats, baked carbohydrates, refined and factory-made foods, food preservatives, etc.

In addition to avoidance of all these carcinogens, fruits and vegetables—as well as nuts and seeds—contain powerful antioxidants that prevent cancer. Therefore a high-raw diet can be extremely effective in the prevention of cancer, as well as other degenerative diseases, such as heart disease.

Raw foodists rarely suffer from these problems. In fact, diseases of excess are rarely an issue in individuals following a raw food diet. Common problems are more related to deficiencies rather than excess.

Nutrient Density

Fruits and vegetables are the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. When we say that a food is “nutrient dense,” we mean it has a high concentration of nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals) per calorie. Starchy foods are calorie dense, but not as nutrient dense as fruits and vegetables.

In other words, 500 calories of rice or potatoes will contain fewer vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals than 500 calories of kale or 500 calories of apple.

By eating a high-raw diet, we take in more nutrients for fewer calories than if we were to eat mostly cooked grains and meat, or even cooked starchy vegetables.

There are some exceptions, however. Cooked greens tend to be more nutrient dense than raw greens, simply because they wilt down and we can eat more of them that way.

For example, you’ve probably taken a huge amount of spinach and cooked it down to almost nothing in a matter of seconds.

Well, that small cup of cooked spinach is now jam-packed with the minerals of the huge amount of raw spinach, and will only take you a few minutes to eat. On the other hand, the raw spinach takes much longer to chew. Therefore, cooked spinach is more nutrient dense than raw spinach because we can eat more of it more easily.

Raw foodists can get around this by blending greens. Thanks to blenders, we can make a huge green smoothie that will contain a good amount of spinach or kale, and drink it down in no time. It goes without saying that having some form of processed greens in the diet, whether they are steamed or blended, is essential for getting a good balance of nutrients.

Certain cooked foods are as nutrient dense as raw foods, but the most nutrient dense foods are still fruits and vegetables, whether raw or cooked. For example, cooked sweet potato is very nutrient dense, but the same cannot be said of cooked white pasta.

By getting enough calories from raw fruits and vegetables, we automatically take in more than enough vitamins, minerals, and other essential and protective nutrients. This is one of the main reasons why the raw food diet can be effective.

Phytochemicals

Raw fruits and vegetables, as well as raw nuts and seeds, are packed with phytochemicals.

“Phyto” means “plant,” so the term phytochemical designates different compounds in plant foods that protect against illness. Some phytochemicals can prevent DNA damage caused by free radicals.

You’ve probably heard that antioxidants with cancer-preventing benefits are found in many fruits and vegetables and dark leafy greens. Antioxidants are a class of phytochemicals. Some of the most potent phytochemicals are found in raw foods, and many of them are heat-sensitive.

Therefore, eating a high raw diet will give you an abundance of phytochemicals — and this could prove to be one of the main benefits of the diet.

Some notable phytochemicals are to be found in:

#1: The cruciferous family. Including cabbage, kale, broccoli, etc. These vegetables contain a class of phytochemicals (called sulphoraphane and indole-3-carbinol) that are converted into cancer-fighting enzymes by the liver, and also help to balance estrogen levels.

#2: Berries. Including pomegranates, cherries, blueberries, grapes, etc. They contain many phytochemicals that increase immunity.

#3: Citrus fruits. Close to their skin, these fruits contain many phytochemicals, in addition to lots of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant.

Every raw fruit and vegetable contains health-enhancing phytochemicals. Cooking food sometimes enhances the bioavailability of certain phytochemicals, like lycopene in tomatoes, but many antioxidants are more available in the raw state.

Low Toxic Load

A compound called acrylamide is created when carbohydrates (such as potatoes) are cooked at high temperatures (as in baking, frying, etc.). In animal studies, high doses of acrylamide have been shown to cause cancer. More acrylamide is created when foods are cooked at higher temperatures or for longer periods of time.

We also know that other molecules, called “Maillard Molecules,” are formed when foods brown and caramelize during cooking. Some people speculate that these new compounds, created in the cooking process, may affect health negatively.

While certain forms of cooking appear to be relatively harmless (steaming, for example), the surest way to reduce the amount of toxins in your diet is to eat more foods in their raw state.

Note that sometimes cooking destroys toxins that are naturally present in plants. So it’s important to avoid certain foods that should never be eaten raw, like raw or sprouted legumes.

Increased immunity

For the reasons listed above, a raw food diet can be a very effective tool in boosting natural immunity. It’s not the fact that foods are eaten raw that makes such a difference, but rather that fruits and vegetables (whether raw or cooked) contain plenty of antioxidants that boost immunity. Also, many foods and substances that can weaken immunity are generally excluded on a raw food diet.

Eliminating Everything Else That’s Bad for You

One of the main reasons people get sick is that they eat so many “dead,” pre-packaged foods. These foods are not only heavily processed, but contain a long list of suspicious ingredients, including MSG, preservatives, artificial coloring, and more.

Eating a high-raw diet automatically eliminates all of this junk, which means your diet will be cleaner. It will be “wholesome” in the true sense of the world, not the adulterated sense misused everywhere in food advertising.

Raw foodists generally avoids grains, a category of food many people have allergic reactions to (especially the gluten-containing grains).

While I don’t think that a 100% raw diet is necessarily practical and even healthy for everybody, it’s worth trying for 30, 60, or 90 days, as a cleanse or personal experiment. If you don’t see it as a lifetime choice, you’ll be inspired, after your “experiment” is over, to keep eating more raw foods.

Certainly, eating more raw fruits and vegetables in place of processed and calorie-dense foods is one of the healthiest changes you can make to your diet!

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998. He is the author of several books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies.

He was named Best Health Blogger of the year in 2011 by Renegade Health. Frederic has experimented with many diets and specializes in raw food, vegetarian and vegan topics, as well as how to balance a healthy diet in the real world. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

6 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. shelly says:

    I bought the High Raw eBook back in 2010, loved it but lost it during a computer crash. Have been thinking about it again lately, to get it back into my library, and viola!, there it was in my email today. Thanks so much for putting it out there again for free!

  2. Thanks for posting this. Considering our society’s number one problem both physical and financial, and the fact that most people are “walking wounded” sick all the time, and worsen as they age, leading to even more suffering, disability, reliance on life-sapping drugs, and early death, a 100% raw diet is the solution and never a problem. The main challenges are primarily social, and convenience. As both you Fred, and Kevin have said, at least those who truly “experiment” (by following a 100% proper raw food diet for a long enough period to truly get significant health results) will at the very least know what to fall back on when they start to encounter seemingly irreversible or “genetic” or “age-related” health issues.

  3. Kathy says:

    Thank you for all the great points. That is one of the most complete articles I’ve seen in a long time on the virtues of raw. I will share it with a lot of people I know that I am taking to about health issues. Confirms what I’ve been saying (with more details) and may give people a more complete picture of the issue.
    Again, thanks!

  4. Linda says:

    Thank you for the free e-book! So is it right that you should not eat raw sprouted lentils and other legumes? Should I cook them first after sprouting? What other foods should we not eat raw? there seems to be some people saying for example potatoes not raw but it is used as a health remedy?

  5. Eva says:

    Good article nevertheless one of the things that is not said is why human beings would be better of eating raw. I have started to eat raw this year in March because of a YouTube video alas it’s in French : vivrecru.org
    and since then I have been researching a lot. What I have noticed is that people are saying those who are eating raw and making business out of it are often binging behind doors; which I’m sure must be true but nobody is wondering WHY?
    People are binging because our Western lifestyle has produced stressed, fatigued and unhealthy population. From what I understand at the moment eating raw is about eating the way human beings used to eat billions and billions of years ago so it’s about physiology but what most people don’t realize is that most of us have sick bodies even if we think we are fine; so cleansing the body is a very important phase : fasting, colonics, sporting…Another thing that people don’t know because it isn’t clearly explained is that fruits will cleanse the body and vegetable will bring back minerals in the body. So people changing their way of eating in a radical way without understanding these principles are bound to have some issues in the short/long run.The human body is like Nature, it doesn’t need to be controlled, the body can regulate itself without the need of any external help as long as it is treated properly which is not at the moment happening that’s why we have so many diseases in our society. I’ve just started my journey on becoming raw, I am not 100% raw, I eat raw fruits and vegetable and some steamed vegetable but I am not planning to become dogmatic; I don’t count my calories for example because I trust that my body will let me know if it’s missing anything and I want to live a life without fear. I do like to have a better understanding and know the reason why that would be the best adapted way of eating. So for me right now the explanations given by Robert Morse at biological and physiological levels make sense. You start to understand how your own body works which will help you to better monitor yourself in the future. As much as I’ve liked your book Frederic called “The raw controversies”, I feel that understanding human biology/physiology is key to trod on this path. I hope my message will help others on that fabulous journey because it is changing my way of thinking about the way I live, what can I do about it and in turn how can I help our planet to heal the parasites we have become?
    I wish you all well !

  6. chris says:

    Can you give guidelines for what you think is a healthy amount of fat to consume daily? I would like to know your opinion this given varying factors including sex, activity level, and any other pertinent factors.

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