Frequently Asked Questions
What is a raw food diet?
When people speak about “raw food” and the raw food movement, they’re referring to food that is unprocessed, unrefined and untreated with heat. Raw food isn’t a radical concept; most nutritionists agree that we need to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. The raw food diet simply suggests that these foods should be most of what we eat and should be prepared in a way that maximizes nutrient content.
What are the nutritional benefits of a raw food diet?
Eating a diet rich in fresh greens, vegetables and fruits is the easiest way to maintain optimal health and weight. It helps you avoid the foods that have been linked to degenerative diseases and weight gain, including “bad carbs” (such as white sugar and white flour) and “bad fats” (saturated and trans-fats). Additionally, raw foods have vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients, enzymes and fiber — all essential for good health. Better nutrition will not only help prevent disease and obesity but will also slow the aging process and increase energy.
Do you recommend eating a 100% raw diet?
Eating raw foods doesn’t need to be all or nothing. A small percentage of people eat 100% raw, but this isn’t practical for most of us. Eating even 50-75% raw foods can improve health and vitality. The main point is to increase the percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet.
What is the importance of enzymes in a raw food diet?
Enzymes help digest, or break down, raw foods. For example, when fruits ripen, their enzymes change starches into simple sugars (which is why unripe fruit isn’t as sweet). Raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds contain the enzymes necessary to complete the digestion process. (The enzymes in nuts and seeds are activated through soaking them.) The importance of food enzymes in the diet is currently a subject of debate among nutritionists. What we do know is that enzymes are the most heat sensitive of all nutrients, destroyed at temperatures above 118 degrees. More and more research suggests that eating high-enzyme foods aids digestion, and that our bodies can recycle many of the enzymes in food, which means less depletion of its own store of enzymes. Eating an enzyme-rich diet is thought to increase vitality and slow the aging process.
With all those nuts, seeds and avocados, is a raw food diet high in fat?
There are good fats and bad fats. The bad fats include trans-fats, saturated animal fat and refined polyunsaturated fats, such as the fat in refined cooking oils. The “good fats” are all the raw ones: the mono-unsaturated fats, present in avocados, almonds and olive oil; omega-3 fatty acids, present in hemp seeds, flax seeds and walnuts; and medium-chain saturated fatty acids, present in coconut and coconut oil. True, you don’t want to eat too much fat of any kind, but as long as you are getting enough fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables and not overeating, you don’t have to worry about including the good fats in your diet.
Where do I get my protein?
Protein can be found in all natural foods. Vegetables and fruits taken together have about 15% of their calories as protein. Nuts, seeds (especially hemp and sesame), nut/seed butters, dark leafy greens and sprouts, and algae (such as spirulina) are rich sources of protein. More protein is assimilated in raw foods than in cooked foods, which means you don’t need to eat quite as much protein if it’s from raw sources. Even non-vegetarians (who consume more protein) should still also add at least 50% raw foods to their diets. Once they do, non-vegetarians often find that they naturally reduce the amount of animal protein they consume.
Is a raw food diet expensive?
When you make easy recipes, a raw food diet is less expensive than the Standard American Diet. True, organic fruits and vegetables cost more than conventional ones, but they are still cheaper than meat, dairy products, and processed foods. And even if organic fruits and vegetables do cost more money, the benefits to your health will save you money in the long run.
I’m worried my digestive system can’t handle too many raw fruits and vegetables. What can I do?
Raw fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, so there may be an adjustment period. Fruits generally aren’t the problem — they are easy to digest, as long as you eat them in moderate amounts and on an empty stomach. As far as vegetables go, emphasize the easy-to-digest greens and vegetables at first, such as lettuce, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, summer squash, red bell peppers and green, leafy sprouts. And make sure you chew really well: Dark greens and cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, collards, cabbage and broccoli, are very nutritious (rich in protein and minerals) but can be harder to digest. Try shredding them fine and massaging them with a little sea salt, olive oil and lemon juice to soften them. Or take greens as juices and blended soups, as you gradually adapt to eating more raw foods. You can also add your greens to blended fruit smoothies (use 60% fruit, 40% greens, and water to thin). Dehydrated green super-food powders are convenient supplements, especially while traveling.
How can I stick to a raw food diet in the cold weather?
Just because you want to eat raw doesn’t mean foods should be out-of-the-refrigerator cold. Let them come to room temperature. You can also warm soups and sauces over low heat on the stove for a couple of minutes. And drink hot teas. Getting vigorous exercise will also warm you up in the winter.
I have a really busy week. I don’t even have 30 minutes most weekdays! Are there any raw food dishes I can make in advance?
Almond milk, salad dressings, nut patés (dips made from soaked nuts and seeds) and desserts all keep for five days in the refrigerator. Soak and dehydrate nuts ahead of times for a snack, or create spicy nuts to add to salads. Staples such as dehydrated fruit, crackers and kale chips are great to have in the car or in your office drawer.