Fad diets – super foods, super juices, “all-natural” pills. We’ve all heard about them, seen the “amazing results”, dropped 50 pounds. But really, how many of these diets remain sustainable over a lifetime of eating? Over the holiday break I watched a documentary called “Food Matters” on the benefits of eating raw food. Of course I’ve always know that eating “the fruits of nature” is beneficial to my health, but what about all the other yummy things I like to eat….like cheese?

The documentary claimed that the vegetables we get in our standard grocery store have, on average, only 40% of the nutrients we expect to get out of them (What?!? I’ve been so good about adding veggies to my diet. Now you’re telling me I have to add MORE? – Exactly my thought). Not to mention that anything we buy that isn’t organic more than likely has pesticides sprayed on it. Yick…

Raw Food Body

Image Courtesy of thenakedfitness.com

Organic foods tend to be fresher with no pesticides (non-organic veggies can be up to 1.5 weeks old since they’ve been sprayed). Sometimes it’s difficult for some to buy organic because of the high cost, which is why many still buy (myself included) from the non-organic sections of the stores while knowing pesticides have been used. (Why can’t they make the good stuff cheap and the bad stuff expensive?) In the summer its a bit easier to eat organic by going to local farmers markets (buy local!!). You can get a 3 pound bag of tomatoes for about $2.50 (compared to $2.50 per pound at the grocery store).

So what can I eat if I try this?

Unprocessed, preferably organic, whole foods such as:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dried fruit
  • Seaweed
  • Unprocessed organic or natural foods
  • Freshly juiced fruit and vegetables
  • Purified water
  • Young coconut milk

(At least 75% of food consumed should not be heated over 116 degrees F.)

What cooking techniques are used?

Specific cooking techniques make foods more digestible and add variety to the diet, including:

  • Sprouting seeds, grains, and beans
  • Juicing fruit and vegetables
  • Soaking nuts and dried fruit
  • Blending
  • Dehydrating food

Side Effects

Some people experience a detoxification reaction when they start the raw food diet, especially if their previous diet was rich in meat, sugar, and caffeine. Mild headaches, nausea, and cravings can occur but usually last for several days. (Sounds fun….right? :] )

Also be aware that certain nutritional deficiencies can occur on the raw food diet, including:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • B12 – The Journal of Nutrition study found that a raw food diet increased levels of homocysteine due to vitamin B-12 deficiency.
  • Protein
  • Calories

Critics of the raw food diet say while it’s true that some enzymes are inactivated when food is heated, it doesn’t matter because the body uses its own enzymes for digestion. In addition, cooking makes certain phytochemicals easier to absorb, such as beta-carotene in carrots. It’s also important to add vitamin supplements to your diet – there are only a handful of deaths related to vitamin “abuse”, so there is no reason not to take them.

Peppers and Beans - Raw Food Diet

Image Courtesy of nutralegacy.com

The documentary suggested that we eat  80% raw food and 20% cooked / processed food every day. While this sounds great, I wasn’t sure I was ready to give it all up cold turkey, not to mention I still need some protein  and calories to stay awake during my work day. I chose a more reasonable number for myself (60% raw and 40% cooked, including meat & protein – not becoming a vegan :] ). My goal is to continue this for the month of January and see if it makes me feel significantly more healthy. I never make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or go back to the gym, but changing my eating habits for a month sounded like a reasonable way to get myself on the right track.

My boyfriend and my roommate are both embarking on this journey with me. I will be documenting how it goes here. There will be lots of fresh recipes posted and hopefully lots of health benefits for all. We’ll see if it’s really a fad or a sustainable way to balance your diet.

Stay tuned….and Happy New Year!

Ashley Lojko - Cooking For One

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