March 30 2024 – Delikate Rayne

A trend in veganism has been the rise of “raw food,” which refers to food that has been prepared using temperatures no higher than 40-48˚C (or 104-118˚F). There are forms of raw food involving meat, such as sashimi, but the vegan version is what people usually think of when referring to “raw food.” The goal is to eat food in its “purest” form by maintaining the quality of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and enzymes in food that can be altered when cooked. 
There is some inaccuracy in the promotion of raw foods, especially around digestion and enzymes. Articles published by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics say that the enzymes involved in raw food don’t facilitate digestion at all, as those enzymes don’t even activate thanks to human stomach acids. There is also some argument about raw food being more suited to the human body because it is more “natural.” But because humans can digest both raw and cooked foods, nutritional professionals insist there is no reason to believe raw food is the superior choice. 

Food preparation in raw food cuisine is a little different, and mostly involves a dehydrator that blows hot air through food to concentrate flavors and give it crisp. You would be surprised at all the foods you can make that are still “raw.” Raw food chef Russel James has all sorts of recipes on his website that range raw breads, raw pizza, breakfast bowls, Pad Thai, eggplant bacon, and curried tomato fettuccine. It is important to understand that cooking has a “give and take” relationship. For example, cooking tomatoes makes the nutrient lycopene more digestible, the potency of the Vitamin C is lost.  

A “raw food diet” does not necessarily mean you have to switch to eating nothing but raw foods, even though some people do prefer that. The trick is to start small and find the amount of raw food that feels right for your body. James actually incorporates both raw and cooked food in his diet. He suggests avoiding the “all or nothing” mindset, and that when it comes to raw food, it’s important to focus on what you’re adding to your diet (freshness, flavor, vitamins) rather than on what you are losing. 

There are both health benefits and risks associated with raw foods. In the benefits department, raw food has weight loss potential. For James, he loves the way raw food makes him feel: fresh and full of life. He pursues raw food because of all the positive feelings it gives him. Raw food might also benefit heart health as the associated foods (vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc.) are associated with low blood pressure and low blood cholesterol. The raw food diet, much like a normal vegan diet, also includes a lot of fiber, which promotes digestive health. 

As for risks, food poisoning is the first that comes to mind. Preparation must always be extra careful to prevent contamination, especially with some sprouts that need humid conditions to grow, conditions that are ideal for bacterial growth. The biggest concern with the raw food diet is maintaining balanced nutrition. Calcium and Vitamin D will be particularly hard to come by, and supplements are discouraged on the diet as they are processed. The consequences of an unbalanced diet could include weakened muscles and bones, a higher risk of tooth decay, and maybe even menstrual irregularities if one isn’t getting enough calories. For some people, raw food isn’t enough and causes them to unintentionally lose weight, which makes raw food not recommended for “fast-burners” or people who digest their food quickly. 

The fact remains that raw food cuisine involves bright flavors and vibrant colors. Whether you’re interested in dabbling in a raw food diet or not, it would be hard pressed to go wrong with a raw meal or two.