The idea behind a ‘raw’ diet is to avoid cooked and processed foods, eating a diet comprising mostly of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds (and sometimes raw fish or meat, unpasteurised dairy and grains). It essentially means leaving behind the oven, stovetop and microwave and pre-packaged foods and eating a lot more fruit and veg. Think salads, smoothies, snacks of nuts and seeds and plenty of fruit. Many raw food mavens also seem to be getting quite experimental with making raw versions of treat foods (hence the reason for my current Instagram feed). The purpose of this ‘lifestyle’ is to improve overall health and slow aging by eating foods that haven’t been heated and hence retain all of their nutrients.
There are many 'applaud-able' features of this way of eating. For example:
- A higher intake of veg and fruit, lacking in many Aussie’s diets.
- Less reliance on highly processed and pre-packaged meals and meal elements which often have a lot more added salt, sugar, fat and other additives than you would think.
- Encouragement of greater ‘cooking’ (I use that term loosely as no actual cooking is taking place) skills, experimenting with flavours and new ways of creating meals.
But there are also some major flaws:
- It often involves an avoidance of major food groups like meat, dairy, grains and legumes.
- There are food safety concerns of eating raw milk, yoghurt and meats, especially if not handled correctly.
- Can be very restrictive and impact on social life (i.e. no more going out for dinner, or enjoying cake on someone’s birthday) and requiring a lot more planning.
- Saying that all foods become devoid of nutrients when heated is just wrong. Yes some nutrients slightly diminish in content on cooking (think techniques like boiling where some nutrients can leach out of veg and into the water), but the nutrient content of some foods is actually greatly enhanced through cooking and processing. Tomatoes are a great example as cooked tomatoes (such as in tomato paste) contain much more lycopene than raw tomatoes.
Beware the raw dessert
Then there’s the elephant in the room which I haven’t yet brought up: the fact that most of these ‘raw’ desserts look a hell of a lot better than they actually taste (with the exception of my ‘raw’ choc hazelnut cups ;)). But even the ones that taste good, still are nothing like their creators claim them to be (chocolate brownie, caramel slice, cookie dough balls, cheesecakes- I mean, please!), so they can be a far cry from satisfying that craving.
Many do contain healthy ingredients like dates, cocoa/cacao powder, nuts and seeds, but they’re so rich thanks to the nut fats and coconut oil and maple syrup or agave syrup (or whatever other ‘sugar’ is the current flavour of the month), that they can contain more kilojoules and saturated fat than a Tim-Tam! Don’t be fooled, these are certainly still ‘sometimes foods’.
Oh, and another thing? Processing and heating aren’t all bad! They've brought us a lot of things that make a healthy diet in a busy lifestyle possible and I don’t know about you, but I think it’s way too cold at the moment to survive on salads and smoothies and phony Snicker’s Bars!