The Science Behind the Health Benefits of Raw (fresh) Foods – Article
The Health Benefits of Raw Foods
The raw food diet is all the rage, with recipe books and restaurants popping up all over the country. Is this just a passing fad or are there merits to this way of eating? Well, in my own life and in my practice, I continue to see the amazing benefits of including some fresh fruits or vegetables, nuts and seeds in one’s diet. You do not have to be a fanatical 100% raw foodist to enjoy the health benefits this offers. And, we now have some scientific evidence as to why this way of eating is so energizing and rejuvenating for your health and well being.
Why raw foods and what does this include?
The raw or fresh way of eating includes organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouts, and sea vegetables in an uncooked or lightly dehydrated state. One of the key benefits of eating this way include the fact that these foods are rich in natural enzymes that help you to digest and assimilate the nutrients. When these foods are cooked at high temperatures, the enzymes are destroyed.
Since the diet consists of only the basic whole foods mentioned above, it automatically, by definition, eliminates all foods that can detract from general health and wellbeing. The raw food diet eliminates all harmful fats, chemicalized and processed foods, refined sugars, refined starches, excessive animal protein and dairy, and these foods have no cholesterol. Knowing this alone makes it clear why this diet is so wonderfully healthy.
In addition to this, raw foods are packed with vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and one group of German researchers have found that these foods are rich with energy from the sun (through the process of photosynthesis). No wonder eating this way is so energizing.
From last month’s article on Juicing, I shared the following:
We know that the process of cooking vegetables destroys most of the valuable micronutrients by altering their shape and chemical composition. According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, “Raw vegan diets may very well provide the most effective therapeutic dietary treatment for chronic disease that exists today.” Research is under way on the effects of raw vegan diets on heart disease, diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Raw Foods offer promise in the realm of chronic disease because they eliminate the most potentially harmful categories of food while offering an abundance of antioxidants and phytonutrients and fiber that are associated with reduced disease risk.
These diets are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. According to Brenda Davis, RD and Vesanto Melina, MS, RD, in their book “Becoming Raw”, they noted the following:
One study showed that anti—inflammatory compounds were 10x more prevalent in raw food vegans than omnivores. They also had higher levels of C and E, and blood caratenoids were 2 – 6 times greater.
Raw foods promote regularity which reduces time available for harmful compounds to be absorbed in the gut. Reduction in toxic compounds and improvement in vitamin status were more pronounced.
A 2006 US study by Dr. Fontana looked at IGF-1, which promotes cancerous tumor development. IGF-1 was lowest in the raw food vegan group and they showed less DNA damage than the other groups studied.
2007 World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research indicated that 16 out of 23 reports showed statistically significant risk reduction with raw vegetable intake and no reports show an increase risk
A Columbia University and Cancer Research Center of Seattle study showed that as the total amount of raw cruciferous vegetables increased, cancer risk decreased.
Does this mean you have to become a 100% raw foodist and never have cooked food again? Of course not as that is unrealistic for most people and not required to enjoy the benefits. All I would like to suggest is that you begin including some fresh plant foods into your diet. If you are dealing with a health challenge, then many will say that if you could approach at least 80% raw by weight, your body will be given a chance to detox and rejuvenate.
So, give it a try. You just may find that eating this way can be quite delicious, satisfying and energizing.