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Facts about Raw Food Diet - Advantages and Disadvantages

In these days of unhealthy or junk foods, many people believe a diet with raw foods is an ultimate path to healthier lifestyle. They also believe a raw food diet can help decrease the risk of many diseases and lead a bulky dieter to a leaner figure with full of energy and smoother skin. However, the scientific studies suggest that in some points, the raw food devotees are right about this diet, but long-term continuation could be a path to serious nutritional deficiencies. So, here are a few questions that may spark your brain:
  • Is a raw food diet healthy for your body?
  • Are those beneficial facts that you read about raw diet true?
  • Are nutritional deficiencies a consequence of continuing raw diet?
  • What are the actual advantages of continuing a raw diet?
  • What are the disadvantages of continuing a raw food diet?
Read on to find out the answers based on the scientific study outcomes.

What is a Raw Food Diet?

organic raw food
Source: SweetOnVeg, CC-BY-2.0, via Flickr
A diet consists of unprocessed or uncooked foods, mainly plant-based foods that are not heated above 115 degree Fahrenheit, is known as raw diet. In other words, a raw food diet is a specific type of diet in which a dieter needs to consume around 75% foods in a totally uncooked or natural state. Devotees believe this food style is the most wholesome for our health and it helps to retain the essential enzymes as well as nutrients of the foods.

Advantages of a Raw Diet Based on Scientific Study Outcomes

Actually, there are not enough scientific studies done to evaluate the healthy benefits of consuming uncooked foods. In fact, only a few studies have attributed some positive points. Accordingly, in this post, I have discussed some of the most appreciated studies related to raw food diet.

picture of vegan raw tacos
Source: Joi, CC-BY-2.0, via Flickr
A recent study on consumption of raw cruciferous vegetables, published by the American Association for Cancer Research, suggested that cruciferous vegetables might help decrease the risk of bladder cancer, if consumed raw. According to the study findings, high temperature diminishes a potential bladder cancer preventive agent “isothiocyanates” from cooked cruciferous vegetables. Oppositely, raw cruciferous vegetables retain the potential compound isothiocyanates. Based on this study outcome, the researchers came into a conclusion that consumption of cruciferous vegetables in a natural state might be helpful in reducing bladder cancer risk.

Another scientific study on “raw vs. cooked foods and cancer risk” suggested that raw vegetables might be more cancer preventive than cooked vegetables. This study demonstrated that both uncooked and cooked vegetables are inversely related to oral, laryngeal, pharyngeal, epithelial, and gastrointestinal cancers. However, the researchers also found that statistically raw vegetables had a significant inverse relationship with these cancers than cooked vegetables. Moreover, in a clinical study, scientists also found that long-term consumption of raw foods could help lower the cholesterol level as well as triglycerides.

In addition, you need to know that several other studies also suggest that a diet consists of raw foods may help to lose weight, tighten skin appearance, improve digestive function, lower risk of heart diseases and diabetes, enhance energy level, and keep you hydrated.

Disadvantages of Continuing a Raw Food Diet

Raw Beef
Source: Helga's Lobster Stew, CC-BY-2.0, via Flickr
First of all, I need to mention that consumption of raw food doesn’t possess any magical benefits. Although there are some advantages of consuming uncooked foods over cooked foods, but disadvantages are also associated with the long-term continuation of these foods.

As most of the raw foodists are nearly 100% vegetarian, they usually lack in nutrients from animal sources. According to a recent study on long-term raw vegetarians, a high deficiency of vitamin B12 was found in most vegans. You need to know that the primary source of vitamin B12 in our body is dairy products and animals; it is essentially required for the development of nerve and red blood cells and long-term deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead anyone to neurological disorders and anemia.

A strict raw food diet can eventually lead to drastic weight loss. You need to know that a long-term study on raw dieters has already confirmed that this diet can interrupt the normal menstrual cycle in women due to rapid weight loss. In addition, another recent study demonstrated that most raw food vegetarians are deficient in iron, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids; this study also found an abnormally low bone mass in these vegetarians.

In conclusion, if you are on a raw food diet, you need to know that the American Dietetic Association (ADA) recommends taking supplements to fulfill the daily requirements of nutrients. You need to keep in mind that not all forms of uncooked foods are healthier for your body. Many raw foods contain hazardous toxic substances, and can cause serious adverse effects if they are eaten raw. Mushrooms, potatoes, beans, parsnip, alfalfa sprouts, flavonoids, spinach/rhubarb, grains, and taro may eventually results serious side effects when consumed raw in high quantities. Moreover, according to several studies, cooked foods are more digestible than uncooked foods. Because our traditional cooking procedure breaks down protein and carbohydrate contained in the food and as a result, cooked foods are easily digested in our body. So, if you are with a weak digestive system, consider consulting with a dietitian, because a raw diet may not be suitable for you.

Medical References

  • Vegetarian diets. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 Jun; 103(6):748-65.
  • Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Apr; 17(4):938-44. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-07-2502.
  • Raw versus Cooked Vegetables and Cancer Risk. September 2004 13; 1422.
  • J. Nutr. October 1, 2005 vol. 135 no. 102372-2378.
  • The Iowa Source. Raw Food Diet Study, Aug 06.
  • Uncooked, lactobacilli-rich, vegan food and rheumatoid arthritis. Br J Rheumatol. 1998 Mar; 37(3):274-81.
  • Ann Nutr Metab 1999; 43:69–79 (DOI:10.1159/000012770).
  • Archives of Internal Medicine; vol. 165, pp. 1-6, March 28, 2005.

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