Author: Cathy Robinson, BScDipNutMed

Health benefits of raw food

Health benefits of raw food

Table of contents:

 

Eating raw, championed by celebrities, chefs and food bloggers is increasing in popularity in the UK.

In this article we’ll introduce you to some benefits of raw food eating, backed by science.

Our mission is to provide you with both insightful information and evidence-based content to give you actionable knowledge and tips to help you on your journey towards optimal health.

 

Why choose raw food?


You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘you are what you eat’, although it’s more accurate to say we are what our bodies are able to digest and absorb. Advocates of raw food eating suggest food in its unheated natural form not only retains more nutrients but is easier to digest and absorb than cooked food.

Every food has a certain heat level beyond which its chemical composition changes and it becomes damaged.

When you eat raw food, you’ll be taking in more of its nutrients in their original form.

In addition, because eating raw discourages the consumption of processed foods, very few chemicals like preservatives, colours and flavours will be present.

 

Enzyme power


Whole foods are naturally designed - complete packages containing the nutrients required to sustain life.

Crucially, they provide us with enzymes which help our bodies digest and absorb nutrients as well assisting biochemical reactions inside our body’s cells during the process of metabolism.

Our body produces over 3,000 enzymes, each with a different function.

Without them, some of the chemical reactions fundamental to life would not happen.

It’s argued the more raw foods are eaten, the fewer enzymes your body needs to produce.

While scientific evidence for this concept is lacking it’s known digestive enzyme production slows with age (1), so it follows eating raw food could help make up for this deficit.

Research has shown heating food, particularly cooking methods where water is used, depletes many essential nutrients such as vitamin C, B complex vitamins as well as certain minerals.

 

Raw organic is even better


If your raw food is also organic, it will be even richer in certain nutrients.

Conventional produce is often grown on soil which has been used to grow crops time and time again.

Constant use of the same soil results in depleted minerals as they are taken up by the crops.

Although non-organic fertilisers replace some nutrients, they don’t generally replace trace minerals such as selenium or manganese.

Research has found organic crops contain as much as 50% more antioxidants - specifically anthocyanins and flavanols - compared to conventionally-grown crops (2). Also don’t forget non-organic crops are usually treated with pesticides.

 

Raw food eating


Eating raw means choosing predominantly fresh vegetables and fruit, nuts, seeds and legumes.

Most raw food advocates are vegan, although not all.

No food is heated beyond 48°C, although dehydrating, which gently heats food to a low temperature, can be used.

You can also choose dried foods which are great for snacking on the go.

Drying fresh food has been used as a preservation method for thousands of years throughout the world.

Before the invention of the fridge, people would use the sun to dry out foods to keep them fresh for longer for eating at a later date.

If you buy dehydrated foods make sure they have not been dried using chemicals.

If they have been sun dried, it will say so on the packet.

Juicing fresh fruits and vegetables is one simple way to incorporate raw eating into your day.

Raw food eating is not so much a diet but more a way of eating which promotes eating food in its natural state.

Many people periodically adopt raw food eating as part of a cleanse or detox, while others eat a proportion of their food raw to fit in with their lifestyle.

 

Raw food for optimum health


Raw food eating naturally means consuming plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit which are high in antioxidants.

These have been linked to diverse health benefits, including reduction of inflammation and even longevity.

We’ve picked out three other areas where raw food could benefit your health.

 

  • Eat raw to balance your blood sugar

Following a raw food eating plan has been found anecdotally to be helpful in cases of type 2 diabetes.

Many people have been able to come off their diabetes medication after switching to raw food.

Please note it’s important to consult your GP before making changes to any medication.

Raw foods contain good levels of fibre, especially soluble fibre, such as that found in apples, citrus fruits and legumes, which can help balance blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar. Raw foods also naturally contain less sugar and fat.

Two foods which may be helpful to improve blood sugar balance include cinnamon and cloves.

Cinnamon has been found to improve insulin sensitivity for at least 12 hours after it is eaten (3).

This study used a little over one teaspoon of cinnamon per day, which would make an excellent addition to a smoothie.

Cloves, on the other hand, have been found in studies to increase the amount of sugar taken into muscle cells, and so improve blood sugar balance.

 

  • Raw food for cardiovascular health

Uncooked foods contain essential fatty acids of the Omega-3 series, for example from fresh nuts and seeds

These fats can be easily damaged by heating. Omega 3 fats support healthy cardiovascular function and may help lower blood pressure.

Eating raw food has been found to be connected with low levels of the LDL (bad) cholesterol (4).

Vitamin C is one of the easiest nutrients to lose once food is heated, particularly if the food is kept warm.

Eating plenty of raw foods rich in vitamin C is related to a lower risk of heart disease, as well as reduced blood pressure, and research has shown this vitamin can slow the process of plaque build-up in the arteries.

Great sources of vitamin C include oranges, strawberries, broccoli and papaya.

 

  • Raw foods to beat stress

With our modern busy, hectic lives, ongoing stressful situations can adversely affect our mental and physical health.

Chronic stress can leave us feeling more than simply a little overwhelmed.

It can lead to depression, anxiety and low energy as well as contributing to the development of chronic health conditions.

One of the biggest problems is when we feel stressed we tend to reach for the types of foods which deplete our body’s ability to deal with stress over the long term, such as fat, sugar and salt.

Try the following stress-busting raw foods:

Raw cacao has been found in studies to help us deal with stress It’s rich in chemical compounds called polyphenols which naturally affect certain types of brain waves known as gamma waves.

These are the most subtle brain waves which are connected with perception, alertness and higher consciousness (5).

It’s also a great source of magnesium, which helps muscles and nerves to relax.

Nuts, especially almonds, are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan, which may boost the levels of serotonin.

This chemical messenger is involved in stabilising mood. Raw nuts and seeds are also high in magnesium.

 

Takeaway

Your health will thank you if you include more raw foods in your daily food choices.

It’s a good idea to introduce raw food gradually, as your digestive system can take time to adapt to the increased fibre.

As with any form of vegan eating, you’ll also need to take care you’re eating enough foods containing vitamin B12, as the only rich source of B12 is in animal-derived products.

Some fermented foods and sea vegetables do contain B12, otherwise look for fortified foods or take a supplement

A stay at an Amchara health retreat incorporates reviving fresh juices and delicious raw food meals as an integral part of your healing and detoxification programme.

You’ll find over the course of your retreat both your body and mind start to feel lighter, clearer and more able to cope with challenges, and your energy levels will increase.

We hope you enjoyed this article.

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have you tried eating raw food to support your health?

With your comments let’s continue the conversation.

Free 360 Health Consultation


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