You may be thinking about trying a raw food diet. This concept is nothing new. In fact, ancestral humans ate most of their food in its raw state.
This means food that has not been cooked, exposed to heat, or overly processed in any way. A raw food diet is typically high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds and may provide several benefits:
- Lowered risk of Type 2 diabetes
- Improved heart health
- Better digestive health
- Provide nutrients for glowing skin
The lower risk of Type 2 diabetes is probably due to the high fiber content of many raw foods. This fiber changes the way the natural sugar, fructose, present in fruits and vegetables, is processed by your body to help normalize blood sugar levels. Fiber is also linked to increased insulin sensitivity, which helps glucose in the blood to easily enter into cells. When cells become resistant to insulin, blood sugar levels can rise beyond safe limits and cause damage to the eyes, heart, and kidneys. The fiber in certain raw foods, such as bananas, avocado, oatmeal, and chicory root is what is called prebiotic. Prebiotic fiber acts as food for the friendly bacteria in the colon that make up your intestinal microbiome. Your microbiome has many important functions, such as the regulation of hormones and the manufacture of certain vitamins. Most of the body's immune system originates in the microbiome as well. Besides being rich in antioxidants and important nutrients, raw foods may promote heart health by reducing blood pressure and unhealthy blood fats. Antioxidants are substances that fight cell damage and inflammation. Raw foods not only nourish the skin from within, but when certain foods are seared or roasted and especially barbequed, damaging compounds called AGEs can form.
Can Cooking Foods Age the Skin?
AGEs stands for advanced glycation end products. These compounds damage skin by linking up with the skin's supportive fibers, collagen, and elastin, causing them to become stiff and brittle. This results in sagging, wrinkling, discoloration, and an unattractive sallow skin tone. Young skin looks plump, smooth, fresh, dewy, and lush because it's rich in both water and undamaged collagen and elastin.
What Foods are in a Raw Diet?
A raw diet typically consists of plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nut milks, oils, peanut butter, seeds, and nuts. Sweeteners like raw honey and maple syrup are acceptable. However, some people do eat raw animal foods, too. This may be:
- Raw milk
- Raw butter
- Really raw cheese
- Raw yogurt and kefir
- Fish ceviche
Milk sold in supermarkets is both pasteurized and homogenized. This means it's heated to a certain temperature and then rapidly cooled, killing bacteria that can cause illness. Homogenization blends the milk's cream with the milk, forming a smooth product where the cream doesn't rise to the top. States differ in their regulation of the sale of raw milk products. Some of them, like California, Arizona, Maine, and Nevada, allow the sale of raw milk at any retail store as long as it was processed by a facility licensed to handle raw dairy products.
Really Raw Cheese and Ceviche
Really raw cheese is a raw dairy product made with cow's milk that has not been heated to a temperature higher than that of a cow's. Fish ceviche is a marinated fish dish, often salmon, where the fish is left to rest in lemon or lime juice for a period of time before being eaten as is. Ceviche is safe to eat as long as the fish used for it was prepared as sashimi fish is in the United States. This means a period of freezing has occurred before the fish is consumed. Freezing kills parasites. It is not safe to eat raw fish otherwise.
There's an important reason to include animal foods in a raw food diet. Animal foods are the only practical source of a critical vitamin called B-12. B-12 is necessary for the function of the nervous system and the formation of DNA and red blood cells. A deficiency of this vitamin can be very serious and can result in a type of blood disease called pernicious anemia. Including raw milk and fish in the raw food diet will help to ensure you get enough B-12. No matter what proponents of a vegan diet may tell you, it's not possible to get enough B-12 from a strictly vegan diet. B-12 is available in supplement form for true vegans.
Drawbacks of a Raw Diet
- Not enough vitamin D, protein, and calcium
- Increased risk of tooth decay
- May weaken muscles and bones
- May affect fertility
Plant foods tend to be low in both vitamin D and calcium. Although these are present in some plant foods, the vitamin D-2 in plants is not as well absorbed by the body. Supplements or raw animal foods will solve the problem. Not only are some fruits high in sugar, but they're also high in acid. The combination may promote tooth decay and the erosion of tooth enamel. Raw food diets have another issue with protein content. Very few plants provide the complete protein needed by the body to build, repair and maintain muscle and bone. Soy, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, and chia seeds are among the minimal plant foods providing complete protein. Raw food plant diets may also contribute to menstrual problems, possibly leading to reduced fertility.
Raw food and raw vegan diets offer several health benefits but also carry health risks. It's always best to consult with your physician before beginning any kind of diet regimen and before you consume any raw dairy products.