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Each month I have an article about the health benefits of a raw food diet. Check it out here. Don't forget to leave a comment or click the heart if you enjoyed the article :)
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What Is Raw Food?
When people say The Raw Food Diet, what do you think of? Green salads? A vegetable platter with ranch dressing? This is what I thought of the raw food diet before I did an internship with the Hawaii Naturopathic Retreat Center. As it turns out, raw food can be anything you love: warm soup, pizza or pad thai. It can also be lemon meringue pie, coconut ice cream and brownies. The raw food diet is about eating fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, seeds and oils in delicious and creative ways. It is based on the principle that at temperatures greater than 117 degrees Fahrenheit, enzymes denature, nutrients are lost and toxic chemicals are produced. By keeping the enzymatic and nutritional content of food intact, we are receiving more nutrition to support good health while avoiding the disease producing compounds of cooked food. But what about all the good things cooked food has to offer, like warmth, texture, and taste? Raw food repertoire includes warm food like soups, curries, and pasta while also preserving texture in dishes like noodles, cream sauce and rice. Using kitchen tools like a spiralizer, noodles are made out of zucchini, soaked cashews are blended into a smooth cream sauce and cauliflower is pulverized into rice. And the best part is they are served warm. Dehydrators are used to gently warm and soften food, while maintaining enzymatic activity. Raw food preparation also includes fermentation to make things like kombucha, coconut yogurt, and kimchi. Soaking and sprouting nuts and seeds neutralizes their natural enzyme inhibitors. Raw food is anything but a cold plate of vegetables. But how was it discovered, how does it compare to other diets, and what do I have to gain by eating a raw food diet? Lets have a look…
The Downside To Cooking
In 1930 a Swiss doctor named Paul Kouchakoff discovered that cooked food induces digestive leukocytosis. The amount of leukocytosis was dependent on the method of cooking with barbecuing and microwaving equal to that of an infection1,2. Heating certain foods creates toxic compounds. Acrolein, acrylamide, furans, nitrosamines, hydrocarbons, benzopyrene and HNE (4-hydroxy-trans-2-nonenal) are a few of the toxic compounds created by heating oils, proteins or carbohydrates. HEATOX is a research project involving 14 countries, an external panel, 100 scientific papers, and 700 references that looked at the health risks associated with heat-treated food. They found many of these toxins to destabilize DNA, induce neurotoxicity, cancers and kidney toxicity3. Other well known effects of consuming heat produced toxins are Alzehimer’s disease, chronic inflammation and the production of advanced glycosylated end products (AGEs). AGEs underlie the pathogenesis of many conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and cataracts.
Not only does heating food produce toxins it also damages proteins. Enzymes catalyze virtually all the biochemical reactions in the cell. One major enzymatic function in the body is to break down proteins in the GI tract. Eating food that lacks its natural enzymatic activity is harder for the body to break down and more energetically expensive to eliminate. Food that sits undigested in the gut is a prime resource for pathogenic gut flora like bacteria and yeast. When undigested food makes it way into the blood stream, food allergies are born.
Raw Food: A Nutritional Analysis
I was amazed to discover that raw food could be made into meals that were tasty, beautiful and also medicinal. At the retreat center, taco night was used as a tool of detoxification using: red cabbage taco shells, walnut taco meat, cashew sour cream, guacamole and fresh tomato salsa. Thinking about the nutritional benefits of our meal, I scanned through our ingredients: Cabbage- L-glutamine, sulphur, vitamin K, Walnuts- manganese, B vitamins, protein, omega 3 fatty acids, Avocado- saturated fat, fiber, Cilantro- anti-cancer, Onion-quercitin, Tomato-flavenoid antioxidants, vitamin C, and the list went on. No toxic compouds. No waste. This was really using food as medicine. The meal was delicious and afterwards I felt satisfied. For years I had struggled trying to eat a sugar-free, processed food-free, non-wheat, non-dairy diet. I would eat this way for a period of time and then invariably fall off the wagon because there was a meal, flavor or texture that I missed. For the first time I saw the possibility of eating healthy and fulfilling meals while avoiding allergens and processed foods. But how would I meet my protein and B12 needs?
The USDA Protein Comparison Chart (2009) has a 4 oz. porterhouse steak weighing in at 26 grams of protein, a 3 oz. serving of fish at 22 grams of protein, 1 cup of kidney beans has 44 grams and lentils 50 grams 4. Per calorie, 100 grams of broccoli has been shown to have the highest amount of protein when compared to 100 calories of steak, kale and romaine lettuce5. Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s website compares the calorie to nutrition ratio. He notes that since 100 calories of steak is only 1 oz., most people are going to be eating 4-6 times that in a single serving which would increase their protein intake. However, for the average person, one serving of meat contains too many calories and not enough life enhancing nutrients such as vitamins A, C + K and minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium5. To manage their B12 levels some raw foodists incorporate raw milk and fish into their diet.
The Raw Food Revolution
Since Swiss medical doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner first opened his raw food clinic called “Vital Force” in the late 1800’s, raw food has grown into a revolution6. Chefs have made names for themselves creating and serving gourmet raw meals in cities all over the world. California, Hawaii, New York, Vancouver, Brighton and Glasgow have raw food restaurants, grocery stores and festivals dedicated to raw food. Medical clinics founded on the principles of raw food diet such as The Hippocrates Institute and Ann Wigmore Foundation have been treating dozens of conditions and thousands of patients for more than half a century. Raw food is used as a mechanism for detoxification, platform for lifestyle change, and basis for everyday diet to promote health and longevity.
3. HEATOX- http://www.slv.se/upload/heatox/documents/D62_final_project_leaflet.pdf