Would You Follow a Raw Food Diet?

If you follow food and diet trends, you’ve probably noticed that the raw food craze began a while ago with adherents swearing by its weight loss and healing properties. I first became intrigued of raw foodism several years ago when I was a strict vegan, but I couldn’t commit to it for an extended period of time. Now, I find myself cooking (or un-cooking) more raw food dishes, but I’m still not a raw vegan for the record. The raw food diet promises many things, but is it all too good to be true? Not necessarily. First, let’s discuss the “rules” one must follow on this diet.

Rules of the Raw Food Diet

If you’re following a 100% raw food diet, nothing on your plate can be cooked above 140°F. Grains are typically not included in this diet, unless they’re raw (under 140°F). Dairy and meat are not usually included because of the risk of pathogenic bacteria that spreads at low temperatures. Most of your meals will come from your own preparation because most restaurants, delis, and other eateries don’t have too many raw options. The diet is mainly fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, extra virgin oils, and sprouted raw grains and legumes.

Health Benefits

Because it is so high in fruits and vegetables, the raw food diet has many benefits. To start, you’re going to get more vitamins and minerals at a lower calorie intake than if you obtain your calories from processed, enriched/fortified foods (processed foods, such as cereal and bread, which have vitamins and minerals added to them). The high water content of fresh fruits and vegetables may lead to a lower calorie intake because of how filling these foods tend to be. Less processing of food typically means that use of oils will be limited because cooking is kept to a minimum. Fiber intake tends to be very high on this diet, which is also a major benefit, as most Americans do not meet their daily fiber requirement.

Anecdotally, many people who follow the raw food diet not only mention the above, but also claim to be healed of various health issues. Research has yet to prove anything substantial, but the high phytonutrient content of fruits and vegetables, along with fiber, has been proven to lower the risk of several cancers and heart disease.

Pitfalls of the Raw Food Diet

Convenience may be an issue on this diet, as going out to a restaurant and trying to find something other than a salad may be an issue (but if salads are your thing, go ahead!). Many raw food dishes require specialty kitchen items such as a vegetable spiralizer (to make raw vegetable “noodles”), a dehydrator (which cooks food to a temperature lower than 105°F, a food processor (to make gourmet raw meals), and a juicer or blender. Adequate protein may be difficult to achieve on this diet without some planning. As mentioned in previous posts, most people need just under 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight (to find your weight in kg, divide pounds by 2.2). Calcium and Vitamin D intake may also be low, so if that’s a concern for you (especially if you’re a woman) and you want to try the raw food diet, you may want to add a Calcium and Vitamin D supplement.

My View of the Raw Food Diet

I think this diet has many benefits, but also falls short in several nutrients. The “science” behind this diet is also faulty, as some claim that cooking destroys essential enzymes in food that the body needs. The reality is our digestive system produces the enzymes which break down our food. Any enzymes present in raw foods are destroyed in the acidic environment of our stomach, before absorption of nutrients even occurs.

Still, with so many people claiming that raw food has changed their lives, I can’t be too hard on this one. If you can envision yourself living as a raw foodist for a while, then I say, go for it, or if you just want to try it, be my guest. I’m slightly biased on this one because of my past as a strict vegan, and I admit I tried this diet for a month in 2008, but didn’t really feel any different, however I’m still intrigued. As a result, I made some (mostly) raw vegan treats this weekend and I’m sharing the recipes below! I used a dehydrator (that I purchased in 2008—yep, I went all out during my raw food trial) but if you don’t have a dehydrator, you can either omit the cooking part and eat these as is, or freeze for a frozen treat.

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The goodies in my dehydrator!

The goodies in my dehydrator!

(Mostly) Raw Vegan Almond-Brownie Bites

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup raw almond meal (you can find this at Trader Joe’s or usually at your local health food store)
  • 2 dates (pitted), pulverized in a food processor with ¼ cup or less of water (you want a paste-like consistency)
  • 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce or, peel and cut an apple, pulverize in a food processor until paste-like (the latter is the more authentically “raw” option)
  • 1 oz (or about 20) almonds, cut or crushed
  • 2 tbsp. chocolate chips

Directions

  • Process dates and water in a food processor
  • Measure almond meal, cocoa powder, and almonds and add to a bowl
  • Add dates, vanilla extract, applesauce, and chocolate chips, and mix together to the dry ingredients.
  • The mixture should be like a thick cookie dough. If the ratios are off, you can add additional almond meal by the tablespoon until the desired consistency is reached.
  • Form into balls using a tablespoon and place on a dehydrator sheet. If not available, enjoy as is, or place in the freezer for 20-60 minutes.
  • Dehydrate for 2 hours and then let dry overnight.

Raw Vegan Almond Raisin Bites

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Ingredients

  • ¾ cup raw almond meal
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (or make your own apple-paste using the method listed above in the previous recipe)
  • 2 dates, pitted, and pulverized with some water in a food processor (you want a paste-like consistency)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 2 tbsp. raw almond butter (I bought mine at Trader Joe’s)

Directions

  • Process the dates and water in a food processor
  • Measure almond meal and put in a bowl
  • Add applesauce, dates, vanilla extract, and almond butter to the almond meal.
  • Add raisins and mix until a thick cookie dough consistency is reached. If the mixture is too thin, add additional almond meal by the tablespoon. If too thick, add a little applesauce.
  • Form into balls using a tablespoon and place on a dehydrator sheet. Again, if unavailable, enjoy as is, or place in the freezer for 20-60 minutes.
  • Dehydrate for 2 hours and then let dry overnight.

Enjoy!

-Jess

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