You may have heard of the many amazing benefits of raw food – it cures cancer, causes you to lose weight, and even makes you more beautiful – the way we were meant to eat. You may have seen raw cakes, salads and juices appear in your favourite hipster cafe.
The proponents of raw food have quite clever-sounding arguments about raw food: Do not heat food above 44 degrees celcius, for at this temperature the enzymes are destroyed. The enzymes help digestion, therefore cooking food makes it more difficult to digest. Nutrients, in particular vitamins and antioxidants are destroyed by heating – and why would you want that?
The thing about food fads, is they always have elements of truth to them. It’s true that some nutrients are destroyed on heating, but other nutrients are made easier to digest when they’re heated. These include vitamin A, which is vital for eye health, and lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes known to reduce your risk of cancer.
The claim of enzymes is quite an interesting one. Some raw foodists claim the enzymes get absorbed by your body. Scientists know for a fact that this does not happen. More sensible claims are that these enzymes survive until the upper stomach and help to digest food, thereby saving your pancreas the effort. In fact, enzymes do not work for very long at all in the highly acidic environment of your stomach (Chemistry 101), and for goodness sake, let your pancreas do its job!
One of the main claims of raw food is that it reduces your risk of cancer. Research in this area absolutely supports eating a high amount of fruit and vegetables to prevent cancer, but this is the same whether they are cooked or raw. Raw food diets are definitely high in fruit and vegetables, which would reduce your risk of cancer, so that’s a definite plus.
Raw food can also be a way to carefully control eating, so make sure it’s not an excuse to restrict food unnecessarily. It also makes eating out very difficult, and dinner parties inevitably awkward.
All up, there are some great parts of the raw food diet – the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables is inspiring, and there are many new ways to enjoy foods. I definitely would not advise against eating plenty of fresh food, but by restricting cooked food, you’ll be missing out on a variety of foods and nutrients. A wide variety of food and cooking techniques, is the best choice for health and enjoyment.
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