Even though it’s nearly fall, I just heard from two people who’ve been encouraged to go on raw foods diets—one by a raw-foods guru living in a Mediterranean country and another was encouraged by a relative who went “raw” just a couple weeks ago, himself.
If you live in a temperate climate and you want to move towards a largely uncooked diet, now may not be the best time to make such a major transition. There’s a natural tendency to crave more raw and living foods in late spring and summer. As fall approaches, the opposite is true.
I’m a fan of raw foods but please, don’t fight seasonal common sense. Still, at any time of year, most people can benefit from adding some raw foods to their diets.
Large amounts of raw and living (sprouted) foods and the juice of selected raw, organic vegetables and fruits might be a good addition to your diet if:
1. You are overweight and either red-faced and robust or heavy, sluggish, pallid and fatigued. (Depending on these and other factors, a period of time spent on raw and living foods might benefit you).
2. You are trying to transition from a diet high in fatty animal foods to a diet that contains fewer of these foods (or none at all).
3. You eat a diet high in fatty, cooked animal foods and want to expand the nutritional profile of your diet.
4. You eat a diet high in salt and want to balance out the tightening, hardening and firm-swelling nature of salt with the expanding, softer expansive energy of vegetables and fruits and sprouts.
5. You live in a warm, hot, subtropical, or tropical climate.
6. You live in a temperate or cooler climate, but it is a warm or hot spring or summer and you feel the need for cooling, light “energy”. Or, it’s fall or winter and you want to add smaller amounts of raw and living foods to your diet to replace unhealthy processed foods.
7. You have high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol.
8. You have food intolerances or allergies and want to go on a cleansing diet in order to perhaps slowly introduce back limited amounts of problematic foods.
9. You’ve finished a course of certain medications and want to feel “detoxed” (in some cases a one day or more juice fast might be the ticket).
10. You feel stuck and want to feel lighter, more energetic.
There are more reasons to eat a diet containing large quantities of raw and living foods and their juices but there are just as many reasons not to! It really depends on who you are, what your age is, where you live, what’s available where you live, what your state of health is and what your health goals are. It’s also important to be in touch with your physical self, at least enough to know when your body may really need cooked foods.
While I love the light energy juices, raw and sprouted foods bring, to eat them exclusively (or even mostly), can be problematic for many individuals (here’s a serious look at this issue). I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to diet and I think it’s important to avoid fadism or extremism. Remember, I’m a raw-foods lover who has been exclusively “raw” at points in time. I also often recommend that people include a larger percentage of raw and living foods in their diets, but it’s not for everyone.
One example: I find an 50-60 percent raw diet for a period of time works especially well with overweight, fatigued city dwellers who’ve had a diet high in saturated animal fats, salt, poor-quality cooking oils, baked goods, sugar; who tend to overeat; who have high-cholesterol, high blood pressure, are pre-diabetic (hypoglycemic), who have distended/bloated stomachs, but who generally don’t have serious digestive issues; and who rarely exercise. It’s best to do this in spring or summer.
But, a diet made up of primarily raw foods can also cause digestive issues including the inability to digest thoroughly. Vitamin D, calcium, and B12 tend to be lacking in raw foods diets. Improperly cleaned raw vegetables and fruits and sprouted seeds are frequently the culprits behind food poisoning. An extreme raw-foods diet can cause blood sugar issues. Also, while there may be more enzymes in raw foods, the evidence isn’t clear that they are absorbed by the body in this form (I happen to believe the evidence that does show enzymes are present and absorbed in raw foods). There is evidence that there may be lower bone density and higher rates of dental erosion in those on raw food diets. Also, many people on raw food diets tend to eat a very large quantity of nuts and fruits which, depending on the varieties, can overload the body with nutrients such as zinc and sugars. Like any highly restrictive diet, a raw-foods diet can cause phobias, rigidity and lead to problems of arrogance, especially towards others who do not eat as you do.
All that being said, most people simply do not have enough uncooked foods in their diets, even in fall and winter.
There are other outlooks. Traditional Chinese Medicine and to a large extent, the Macrobiotic movement eschew raw foods. TCM practitioners feel that people damage their digestive “fire” when they eat too many raw foods, causing all kinds of imbalances. Nutritionists will point out that many nutrients are actually only released upon cooking. For example, the beta-carotene in carrots and the lycopene in tomatoes increases when they are cooked.
Drastic dietary changes can be hazardous to your health (and your marriage and relationships)! Even if you have a compelling medical reason to make big changes to your diet, it’s generally best to add new foods little by little and taper off the foods you no longer need in your diet little by little as well. As we approach fall, expect to see more posts about cooked foods (with plenty of uncooked treats). Up next: Recipe and Techniques for Homemade Sourdough Rye Bread-The Real Deal.