Rawism: eating fresh unprocessed food that has not been cooked or exposed to temperatures over 48 degrees celsius.
A raw food diet is made up of 75-100% live, nutritionally-dense, uncooked and unprocessed food - organic wherever possible. Rawism is an approach to nutrition worth exploring, for a short-erm health boost or as a lifestyle.
Eating raw has long been prescribed as a treatment for both chronic and acute conditions. As a clinical nutritionist I have often prescribed it and regularly eat raw for my own well-being. It is a good option for detox, improved immunity and energy.
The fundamental principle is that plant foods in their most natural state - uncooked and unprocessed - are the most wholesome for the body and especially beneficial to reduce toxins. Possibly why on a raw diet, lethargy and headaches reduce. I am one of many who notice improved energy, eyesight and greater mental clarity and focus.
Advocates will quote remarkable stories of life-changing results and some of quite miraculous recovery from acute and chronic disease, but of the few formal studies some results stand out. A review of fifty studies showed a raw diet reduced the risk of oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal, esophageal, and gastric cancers.
Raw cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale) are associated with reduced risk of bladder cancer on even a few serves. Raw broccoli has an enzyme called myrosinase which revs up your liver's ability to detoxify carcinogens. Cooking broccoli inactivates the enzyme, and steamed broccoli has only about a third of these cancer-fighting compounds.
Rawists have shown healthy levels of vitamin A and dietary carotenoids, (from vegetables, fruits and nuts) - powerful protectants against chronic disease. Low-levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are common.
Out of the fire
Vitamin content of raw foods is roughly 10-25% higher than in cooked foods. A raw food diet is rich in minerals and health-giving, anti-oxidant rich phytochemicals.
With vegetables like cabbage, crucifers, herbs and fruit, heat impairs many of the vitamins and minerals and destroys most of the enzymes. But fermenting these vegetables retains nutrients and they're easy to digest. Fermented foods (cultured veges, sauerkraut, kimchi, raw milk, vegan cheeses, coconut cream) provide probiotics (good bacteria) which are crucial to digestion and health helping our bodies fight off disease and boost our good health.
Legumes are important in any healthy diet and especially in rawism. Cooking makes legumes easier to digest but diminishes nutrient bio-availability and inactivates enzyme inhibitors. Solution? Soak, germinate, or ferment.
Raw nuts have healthy, essential fats, can help lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or 'bad,' cholesterol, reduce risk of blood-clots and improve the healthy lining of arteries When nuts are roasted those disease-fighting fats get broken down into free radicals that actually contribute to cardiovascular disease.
Take the heat off
The western diet is greatly in need of a swing to more plant-based unprocessed food. 60% of your diet should be raw (ideally 70%).
Give it a try - go raw for a month or maybe six weeks. New flavours and textures abound and with a little effort some delicious meals and food discoveries await.
Your palate will change and the delicious tastes of crisp, fresh veges and fruit soon becomes desirable and satisfying.
This makes achieving that optimal 70% raw diet both easy and tasty to achieve, for life.
Chewing raw garlic produces a DNA-protecting compound called allicin. One minute of cooking, though, completely inactivates this enzyme.
Four tablespoons of chia seeds supply as much
Calcium as 3 cups of milk
Magnesium as 10 stalks of broccoli
Iron as 1/2 cup of red kidney beans
30% more antioxidants than blueberries
25% more dietary fibre than flax seed
And about the same amount of omega-3 as a 32-ounce fillet of salmon.
Try a chia breakfast pudding for a nutritious start to your day
Guidelines for raw foodies
Eat almost twice the iron as meat-eaters.
Good sources are tofu, legumes, almonds and cashews.
Raw meat-eaters can prepare fish (for Omega 3) and meat cerviche, tartare or carpaccio style.
Eight servings a day of calcium-rich foods like bok choy, cabbage, tempeh, and figs.
Flaxseed and walnuts. Use flaxseed, walnut, hemp, coconut and soybean oil; sources of omega-3 and omega 6 essential fats.
Sea vegetables; kelp products.
Take a B12 and a Vitamin D supplement.
Small regular meals and snack often on nuts, seeds, sprouts and fresh veges.
Lani Lopez Adv. Dip Nat, BHSc. is a naturopath, clinical nutritionist and founder of lanilopez.com. Talk nutrition and winter wellbeing with Lani at facebook.com/lanilopez.com