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Raw Foods Diet

The Promise

Your oven gets a rest on this diet. You'll mostly be eating raw fruits, vegetables, and grains.

The idea is that heating food destroys its nutrients and natural enzymes, which is bad because enzymes boost digestion and fight chronic disease. In short: When you cook it, you kill it.

Some raw foodists believe cooking makes food toxic. They claim that a raw food diet can clear up headaches and allergies, boost immunity and memory, and improve arthritis and diabetes.

Does It Work?

You'll probably lose weight on this diet, since many raw foods are low in calories, fat, and sodium, and high in fiber. One study found that a raw foods diet worked for weight loss.

You'll also get nutritional perks. Most of what you eat will be high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. And it’s true that cooking can zap vitamins B and C. Eating lots of veggies and fruits is good for you. 

But there are drawbacks. You have to make sure you're getting enough protein, iron, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals like B12. Because most people who eat raw foods exclude animal products, you may need to take vitamin supplements to make up for any gaps in your diet.

Plus, cooking isn't all bad. It boosts some nutrients, like beta-carotene and lycopene. It also kills bacteria, which helps you avoid food poisoning. And there’s no proof that eating only raw foods prevents illness.

What You Can Eat and What You Can't

Think uncooked, unprocessed, mostly organic foods. Your staples: raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains. Some eat unpasteurized dairy foods, raw eggs, meat, and fish.

Your food can be cold or even a little bit warm, as long as it doesn’t go above 118 degrees.

You can use blenders, food processors, and dehydrators to prepare foods.

Level of Effort: High

You may need to ramp up your kitchen skills. Eating out can be tricky, and if you go organic, you may need to go to specialty stores for a wider selection than your usual grocery store.

Cooking and shopping: Prep work can be extensive. Many raw foodists become experts at blending and dehydrating foods. Some germinate nuts and sprout seeds. 

Because some uncooked and unpasteurized foods are linked to foodborne illness, you’ll need to wash your food thoroughly and be extra careful with risky foods like sprouts, raspberries, unpasteurized juices, green onions, and lettuce.

Due to the risk of food poisoning, a raw foods diet isn't recommended for pregnant women, young children, seniors, people with weak immune systems, and those with chronic medical conditions like kidney disease.

Packaged foods or meals? No.

In-person meetings? No.

Exercise: Not required.

Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?

Vegetarians and vegans: This diet works well for you. Just make sure your diet meets your nutritional needs. A dietitian can help you with that.

Gluten-free? Most raw foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, are naturally gluten-free.

What Else You Should Know

Costs: You don’t have to pay for meetings, memberships, or prepackaged foods, but this diet can give your wallet a workout. Organic ingredients tend to be more expensive. Kitchen appliances like juicers, blenders, and dehydrators are another expense.

Support: You can do this diet on your own or find online resources, like recipes.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on December 02, 2013

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