What is Raw Food Diet? – A Healthy Nutrition Form Or Just A Risky Trend
Raw food nutrition has become a popular trend in recent years. Anyone who wants to look radiant and young suddenly feeds on raw-food – some people only temporarily, while others permanently. So, let’s check out what is raw food diet exactly.
Many raw-food dieters reclaimed their health with this diet and feel with every “relapse” into regular eating habits the old aches and pains again.
On the other hand, scientists warn that the raw food diet is malnutrition and you cannot eat balanced and healthy with it. So what is raw food diet really? Is this nutrition form healthy or risky?
What is the raw food diet really?
In fact, there is no raw food diet. Most raw food forms are predominantly vegan diets. Some include, however, uncooked dairy products, such as raw eggs, raw fish and raw meat.
Because the main criterion of raw food is that, depending on the exact diet form, one should not heat the food above 92 to 118 degrees Fahrenheit or 33 to 48 degrees Celsius.
Therefore, you can basically make no statement about whether the raw food diet is now healthy or if it carries risks, as almost any diet can be healthy or unhealthy.
Of course, those who nibble on a few carrots while on eating raw food will naturally suffer from deficiencies.
Nevertheless, whoever practices a full-bodied raw food diet will soon experience its healing and purifying effects – not only on the body but also on the mind and psyche.
But what about the study situation for raw food nutrition?
The diet from a scientific point of view
Most scientific studies are very old and date back to the 1990s. Two universities, in particular, were dealing more closely with the subject so far: the University of Giessen, which has most likely identified the negative consequences, and the Finnish University of Kuopio, which found predominantly positive effects.
The possible positive effects
Among the positive effects of raw food nutrition, according to these universities are:
1. Lower cholesterol levels
2. Increased levels of vitamin A, vitamin E and carotenoids in the blood
3. Higher antioxidant level
4. Alleviation of fibromyalgia symptoms and rheumatoid arthritis
The possible negative effects
The possible negative effects of raw food nutrition can include:
1. Low omega-3 level
2. Bodyweight loss
3. Menstrual disorders or absence of the period
4. Dental erosion
5. Low bone density
6. Vitamin B12 deficiency
The raw food diet: healthy or risky?
However, in many of the studies conducted on raw-food diets, they didn’t analyze pure raw food eaters, but persons who nourished themselves from an, at least, 70 percent raw food diet. It is, therefore, not necessarily possible to translate the scientific results to a 100% raw food diet.
Also, the above enumeration of the negative effects does not mean that each of the subjects suffered from it. For example, in a 2005 study of the German Institute for Nutritional Research, 201 people (70 to 100 percent of those who dieted raw food) found that 38 percent had a vitamin B12 deficiency and 12 percent had anemia.
So not all subjects had corresponding deficiencies. The numbers of individuals on a regular diet also look partly worse.
In fact, a Swiss study found that up to 23 percent of all women of childbearing age have an iron deficiency that can lead to anemia.
A vitamin B12 deficiency is also commonly seen in the normal-eating population. Since it is very easy to prevent a B12 deficiency as well as a low omega-3 level with a dietary supplement, this is not an insoluble problem.
On the contrary, people who eat normally would basically have to take more supplements to avoid any shortcomings, such as magnesium, folic acid, antioxidants, vitamins B12, C, D and E and fiber supplements.
How does raw food affect the immune system?
In 1990 a summary of two doctors (Gaisbauer, Langosch) appeared in a journal. This concerned the effect of raw food on the immune system. It says:
“Uncooked food is an integral part of the human diet and a necessary condition for an intact immune system. Its therapeutic effect is complex. We, furthermore, documented a variety of influences of raw food and its components on the immune system.
These are antibiotic, anti-allergic, tumor-protective, immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects. Thus, raw food is in many cases a useful adjunct to medicines for the treatment of allergic, rheumatic and infectious diseases. “
And how does it affect cholesterol?
In the above-mentioned study of the German Institute for Nutrition Research, they also examined the effects of a predominantly raw food diet on blood lipid and cholesterol levels.
1. 14% had a high LDL cholesterol level
2. 46% had low HDL cholesterol levels
3. 0% had a high triglyceride level
This shows that raw food can optimally influence triglycerides. Also, the LDL level was increased only by a few participants. HDL cholesterol was lower in almost half.
It has long been considered “good” cholesterol, but now there are doubts regarding this matter again. Therefore, they consider a low HDL level, especially if it is present together with a low LDL level, as rather positive.
The homocysteine level was elevated in several participants, which could indicate a certain arteriosclerosis risk. However, one knows that the homocysteine level increases with a vitamin B12 deficiency, so you can probably solve the problem by appropriate supplementation.
How does it interact with vitamin A, vitamin E and carotenoid supply?
Vitamin A and carotenoids are considered vital substances that can significantly contribute to the prevention of chronic diseases.
They strengthen bone health, are important for healthy mucous membranes, protect against some cancers and ensure healthy eyes.
During a cross-sectional study (Giessen, 2008), the participants consumed approximately four pounds of fruit and vegetables daily. They found that 82% of the subjects had normal vitamin A levels, 63% had above-average levels of beta-carotene, while 77% oddly enough had lycopene levels below normal levels.
However, in the study from the year 2000 (on rheumatoid arthritis) presented below, the vegan raw-food dieters found a significantly higher carotenoid value compared to the normal-eating individuals, including alpha and beta carotene, lycopene and lutein.
The lower value measured in Giessen, therefore, was not a typical consequence of raw food nutrition.
Already in 1992, they published an interesting Finnish study that compared two groups: one group ate raw food, the other ate the same diet.
The only difference was that they heated their food in the microwave for 2 minutes before consumption. The vitamin A and vitamin E levels did rise after a week within the regular raw diet group. This was not the case, however, in the microwave group.
How does raw food affect the antioxidant level?
It is scientifically proven that oxidative stress and free radicals are contributors to any disease. In turn, antioxidants help to reduce oxidative stress and, thus, lower chronic illness risks. Antioxidants are especially vitamins, minerals, trace elements and phytochemicals.
A 1995 study aimed to find out how the dietary antioxidant content of long-term vegans compares to “normal eaters,” and how the diet affected the individual’s antioxidant status. The result looked like this, where RDA is the recommended daily allowance:
1. Vitamin C: 305% of RDA
2. Vitamin A: 247% of RDA
3. Vitamin E: 313% of RDA
4. Zinc: 92% of the RDA
5. Copper: 120% of the RDA
6. Selenium: 49% of the RDA
The data showed that the raw food diet contains significantly more antioxidants than the cooked, normal diet and that the long-term raw food dieters had a better antioxidant status than the normal eaters. The raw foodists could only add a little more zinc and more selenium to their nutrition plan.
Can this diet alleviate fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease that is normally associated with numerous symptoms: pain in the joints and muscles, excessive sensitivity to stimuli, sleep and digestive disorders, depression, etc.
Conventional medicine is quite helpless and largely prescribes a purely symptomatic treatment with drugs. I will present possible holistic ways in my upcoming main fibromyalgia article. A diet rich in nutrients is one of the most important pillars of such a holistic concept.
In a 2000 study, 18 fibromyalgia patients fed on a low-salt, vegan raw food diet for three months. A control group of 15 subjects continued the usual (omnivorous) diet.
At the end of the study, the raw food group (previously overweight) was not only much leaner but also enjoyed a lower total cholesterol level.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia had also noticeably improved. Pain, joint stiffness and sleep disorders had subsided.
Another study, published a year later, also looked at how a predominantly raw-delicious plant-based diet can affect fibromyalgia. Participants were 30 fibromyalgia people who fed on nuts, raw fruits, salads, carrot juice, cereals, seeds and barley grass juice powder for two months.
They encountered that 19 of the 30 patients experienced significant improvements in their complaints in all areas, so that a raw vegan diet appears to be a very good measure to relieve fibromyalgia. Another study (2000) examined both fibromyalgia and arthritis patients:
Can raw food improve rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (usually just called rheumatism) is one of the chronic inflammatory autoimmune diseases that manifests itself mainly in painful joints. They use school medicine with strong drugs, which can also have extreme side effects.
The dietary change to a plant-based excess base diet is the very first step to find relief and improvement from arthritis.
If you want to go one step further, you can switch your diet to raw food or to a diet high in raw food, which, according to the study above, can also be helpful – in both fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.
In fibromyalgia patients, this study found an improvement in joint mobility and pain, as well as general well-being. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis reported similar effects.
A previous study (1998) also showed that rheumatism patients switching their diet to raw food soon got better and did not need medication (such as methotrexate).
When they returned to normal, the disease worsened again. In a Turkish study (1997), the raw food diet led to an improvement in rheumatoid arthritis.
However, the authors of the studies always emphasize that they added chlorophyll-rich and lactobacilli-rich drinks to the diet plan. It may not be enough to simply eat vegetables, fruits, sprouts and nuts.
The researchers even wrote that large amounts of chlorophyll and lactobacilli consumed daily can have beneficial effects on rheumatism.
In any case, integrate green smoothies, grassy juices (wheat or barley grass juice), nettle powder, dandelion powder or generally wild herbs into your diet for chlorophyll supply.
Also, raw sauerkraut or other fermented raw vegetables are raw-food sources of lactobacilli. In the raw food trade, there are also special preparations, such as the fermented Jerusalem artichoke juice, which not only contains probiotics but also prebiotics (inulin).
Does it harm the teeth?
The Giessen researchers also examined the effects of raw food nutrition on dental health in 1999. The participants were 130 raw food eaters, who ate raw food for 3.5 years on average.
Compared to the normal-eating control group, the raw dieters had significantly more tooth erosions. However, the raw foods examined in this study were also based on above-average citrus fruits – nearly five portions a day.
In the present time, however, a raw food diet is so varied that you most certainly will not so often resort to citrus fruits alone. Keep your raw food diet well balanced, then your teeth will be fine.
Is raw food good for the bones?
Some claim that the raw food diet does not provide enough calcium or enough vitamin D to keep the bones stable in the long term. A study from 2005 seems to confirm this. The test subjects were 18 raw vegans between 33 and 85 years of age who have been on average for 3.6 years on the raw food diet.
They compared them to regular food consumers and measured the BMI, bone mineral density, bone turnover markers and vitamin D levels.
It turned out that the raw vegans had a significantly lower bone density.
However, the vitamin D level was okay and there were no typical features of osteoporosis; the bone metabolism was also healthy. These results indicate that bone mineral density does not necessarily correlate with the risk of osteoporosis, at least not among raw foodists.
Does the psyche benefit from it?
For the psyche, raw food is a blessing, which even scientists have already found out. If you eat a lot of raw food, you are less likely to suffer from mental disorders, such as depression.
Raw food: yes or no?
The raw food diet can, therefore, be a very nutritious and healthy diet. Of course, here, as with any diet, you must carefully choose a good complete supply of all nutrients and vital substances.
It is also important to enjoy the raw food very slowly and to chew your food thoroughly so that your organism can absorb and utilize the vital substances. This rule also counts for juices, such as wheatgrass juice.
Chew and squish your juice within your mouth for about 10 seconds before swallowing it. This ensures the complete absorption of all nutrients and life-enhancing chlorophyll.
I hope I could answer as many questions as possible regarding what is raw food diet. Are you on a raw food diet? If yes, what kind, for how long and what are your experiences with it?
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Meanwhile, I’m sending you, as usual, much love, harmony, happiness and an abundance of all good things. You are beautiful, precious, unique and endlessly loved regardless of what others might say. Thus, keep on shining.