Five Reasons Why a Raw Diet is a Good Idea and Five Reasons Why it’s Not

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

People interpret a raw food diet in different ways. To some it is a vegan diet and only includes plant foods. Others will include raw eggs and unprocessed dairy products. A third group will also eat raw or dehydrated meat and fish.



PROS

1. Better overall health and disease risk reduction:

A largely plant based diet has evidence to back it up as a healthy way to eat with decreased risk of many of the diseases of modern life – cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, type II diabetes and fatty liver disease. Plant based does not however necessarily mean all raw.

2. Weight loss:

People who are overweight or obese could benefit from a raw diet in so much as it includes large amounts of vegetables and fruits which are low in calories and high in fibre. The time taken to digest raw food is longer thus people may feel full longer and eat less in total.

3. Clearer skin

There is no scientific evidence for this claim. However it stands to reason that if you switch from a usual Western diet high in processed foods, saturated fats and sugar, your skin will see a benefit .

4. Better digestion. Again, only anecdotal evidence.

One stated reason to eat raw foods is that the enzymes in them and some vitamins have not been destroyed by heat. The assertion is that nature has provided food with its ideal mixture of nutrients and that to cook them will destroy that balance making our bodies less able to digest them properly.

5. Save time and money on cooking? (Hmm…I’m running out of reasons)


CONS:

1. Raw meat, seafood and eggs can harbour dangerous bacterial organisms which cause food poisoning and potentially death. Eating them raw unless they have been specially prepared as raw for human consumption is highly risky and has no demonstrable health benefits. In fact, cooking makes them more digestible and tastier.

2. If you eliminate foods which have to be cooked to make them safe and digestible then you are cutting out a huge number of healthy foods and cutting down on variety in the diet, which is one of the keys to healthy eating. Preparation of interesting healthy meals is likely to be laborious and time consuming.

3. If you take the vegan option then you will have to monitor your diet very carefully, daily, to ensure nutritional adequacy. Vitamin B12 is a particular risk and a supplement would probably be necessary. There is little fat or oil in a raw vegan diet and fat soluble vitamins may therefore be low. The high phytic acid content of uncooked fibrous foods can block the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium. One small study concluded that people on a raw vegan diet had a lower bone mass density versus people on a regular Western diet. Long term this could possibly be a risk for osteoporosis.*

4. Some raw foods are toxic. Kidney beans are especially dangerous. They must be thoroughly cooked. Buckwheat greens are also toxic (but I’m not sure I have ever seen them for sale anyway…)

5. A completely raw diet can cause gas and cramping, but this would probably alleviate somewhat with time. Enzymes are destroyed by stomach acid as well as by cooking so the raw food is no more ‘alive’ than cooked food.


TAKE HOME MESSAGE: A raw food diet is rather limiting in scope for variety of foods and nutrients. At worst it can be toxic. However, increasing the amount of vegetable and fruits, seeds, nuts and legumes in your diet is a very positive thing and has been shown to bring many health benefits.

* https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/486478

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