Are There Health Benefits To Eating Raw Foods?

By:    Published: February 3, 2012

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Many consumers today are taking a heavy handed interest in their health, which starts with a careful evaluation of their diet and the individual foods that they eat. In a world where highly processed and refined foods are continuing to flood the market, the label-reading trend is on track to improve the health of the average American. One goal that is shared among health conscious individuals is to maximize nutrient absorption and increase health benefits by eating properly.

There is a lot of interest in food states, specifically, if food should be consumed in its raw state or cooked. Some consumers stand firm on a belief that raw food is superior in every way to its processed counterpart. Others aren't so sure. In order to make an informative decision about the benefits of either food state, individuals need to evaluate the various health effects associated with eating raw foods.

Definition Of "Raw Food"

Basic raw food can be defined as naturally grown food items that have not been cooked. Raw food is unprocessed and is never canned, frozen or packaged in any way. Examples of raw foods include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Fresh pressed juices
  • Sprouts
  • Roots
  • Herbs
  • Spices
  • Nuts and seeds

Many people hear the term raw food and mistaken believe it refers only to the basic foods listed above. However, minimally processed food can be considered raw, if it has not been heated beyond 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Examples include raw breads, milks, nut milks, cookies, pastas and even chocolates.

The Animal Kingdom And A Raw Food Diet

An important thing to remember when choosing the healthiest foods for optimal nutrition is that human beings are mammals with similar dietary needs to other omnivores in the Animal Kingdom. Omnivores, for example bears, consume a combination of raw meat and plant items. Just as bears do not cook their food, neither did people of ancient civilizations. The caveman diet involved picking the freshest ingredients and consuming a large portion of these ingredients without cooking them or processing them in any way.

However, in today's society, you will not find many individuals who consume raw meat. What is more common, is a raw vegan diet in which no meat or animal products are consumed. Eating a completely raw diet can be challenging and if not done correctly, can result in severe vitamin and nutritional deficiencies. To ensure that all nutritional needs are being met, many individuals will aim for a 75 percent raw diet, with the other 25 percent consisting of healthy, cooked, minimally processed foods, including meat and poultry.

Negative Effects Of Processed Food

To understand the negative effects of processed food, it is important to first acknowledge that there are different types of processing, and some are nutritionally worse than others. For example, fruit that is featured in your grocer's freezer aisle is often flash frozen. This process does very little to reduce the health benefits derived from the raw fruit. In fact, when an item is flash frozen, some of the most important nutrients can be preserved within the food item for a longer period of time. However, some food manufacturing processes involve boiling, straining and re-boiling vegetables or fruits before sealing them in cans. This process can leech out many of the healthiest elements found in these foods. Foods such as canned fruits, which are preserved in corn sugar or other syrups, are decidedly less healthy than fresh fruits without the added sugar. Consuming an abundance of processed foods such as these can cause negative effects such as:

  • Weight gain
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Sodium overload
  • Diabetes

Weight Loss With Raw Foods

One of the greatest health benefits associated with the regular consumption of raw foods is that consumers who eat large helpings of raw, unprocessed foods have been proven to successfully lose weight and keep it off. When raw food is ingested, the body has to work harder to break the food down and process it for nutrients. When food is cooked, that breakdown process begins much earlier, eliminating the need for the stomach to work as hard to digest the food. Unlike cooked foods, raw foods cause the metabolism to jump up and stay up for a few hours after you've eaten a meal. Consuming a cup full of raw broccoli can keep your body's metabolism working for up to three hours after you've finished eating the broccoli. Raw foods can convince your body to maintain a steady working pace and continue burning calories all day long.

Healthier Skin With Raw Foods

Some studies have been performed that suggest that individuals who consume raw foods on a regular basis may benefit from healthier skin, eyes and fingernails. This occurrence is often referred to as the "raw food glow." Consumers who regularly began their day with a smoothie made from fresh fruits and vegetables that were uncooked began to notice improved skin and nails in just a few weeks. It is important to note, however, that consumers who consume smoothies that have been prepared with frozen fruit from their grocer's freezer aisle often report similar results.

The Health Benefits of Raw Food

Consumers who are concerned with the quality of their diets would do well to begin a dramatic lifestyle change by evaluating the proportions of their foods that are processed and the portions that are raw. Gradually shifting your eating habits away from a mostly cooked, processed diet and slowly incorporating a larger quantity of raw foods may have an astounding effect on your overall health. Raw food supporters believe that when food is heated beyond 115 degrees Fahrenheit, it is no longer a living food because all of the enzymes, vitamins and minerals will break down and die. By consuming raw foods that still maintain 100 percent of the enzymes and nutrients that are present in the food, your body will be flooded with those living nutritional properties.

In addition to the general health benefits that will be acquired by eating unaltered food, all of the specific health benefits associated with a particular food will be maximized as a result of zero breakdown and nutrient loss. For example, if you consume a raw carrot, your body will absorb the 40 milligrams of beta-carotene that is present in the carrot's natural state. Cooking that same carrot will deplete almost half of the beta-carotene content found in the natural state. This translates to half of the nutritional value in a cooked carrot versus a raw carrot. Avoiding this nutritional loss by eating raw foods is an optimal way to absorb more vitamins and minerals, resulting in an overall improvement in health.

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