The benefits surrounding raw foodism are becoming more and more apparent. Although the word “diet” is often thrown around, I prefer to use the word lifestyle. As you become someone who appreciates raw food in its natural state, you promote healthier habits. Although it may seem as though raw foods are the “in thing,” raw foodism is anything but trendy. Have you explored the benefits associated with this lifestyle choice?
If not, here’s why you should, as well as some of the foods you should always eat raw.
Where you source your food is important
The undeniable health benefits associated with raw foods aren’t shocking. I mean, if you mainly consume dark leafy greens, sea vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, all in their natural state, you bet you’re going to be healthier than someone who lives off of frozen pizza and chicken nuggets.
Okay, so that much is clear. But how beneficial is raw foodism? Before I touch on some of the associated benefits, I just want to mention the importance of where you source your food. You can eat and eat and eat, but if the fruits and vegetables you’re eating are depleted nutritionally, you’re not doing yourself any favors. So please, source organic raw foods close to home. They will be more nutrient-dense and will support local family-run farms.
Not all cooked foods are “dead” in the sense that they’re void of nutrients, but there is a long list of foods that are much more beneficial when they’re uncooked or prepared below a temperature of 116 degrees Fahrenheit. Within this range, raw foods will maintain levels of essential nutrients and enzymes.
The benefits of raw food
A raw foods diet can significantly improve your overall health.
Plenty of research has been conducted on this subject, showcasing the following benefits:
- Uncooked “living foods” have been shown to significantly enhance weight loss. In turn, this supports disease prevention — especially cardiovascular complications.
- A raw vegan diet can decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.
- An uncooked vegan diet has shown favorable effects on fecal microflora — associated with a healthy immune system and reduced cancer risk.
- Consuming more raw foods will enhance energy levels, prevent deficiencies and improve digestion.
Whether you suffer from arthritis or heart disease, a raw food diet can significantly improve your overall health and quality of life — but where do you begin? What foods are best eaten raw?
7 foods you should always eat raw
As you review the list below, none of the suggestions are shocking by any means. In all honesty, I think that’s the issue. We know that certain foods are good for us, yet we ignore the power they have in terms of the way they can make us feel, and in turn, live.
Begin with this list, incorporating these foods into your daily diet. From there, expand your knowledge and understanding of raw foods. Baby steps turn into leaps and bounds, remember that! Of course, this is not a definitive list. There are many foods that can benefit your health when eaten raw — but these seven are a great place to start.
Related: Is A Raw Food Diet For You?
This is a wide category, but overall, there isn’t much research that showcases the benefits of cooking fruit. Consuming berries, citrus fruits, melon and other ingredients in their raw state is highly recommended. In fact, you should be eating at least five to six servings of fruit daily, focusing on low-glycemic options.
Although the jury is still out on whether or not a tomato is a fruit or vegetable, many agree that it is, in fact, a fruit. This is one food that you should cook in order to obtain higher levels of lycopene — a potent antioxidant. That doesn’t mean you should avoid raw tomatoes, but if you have the option, this is a unique circumstance. Cooked tomatoes are ideal.
2. Red peppers
Raw foods like red peppers contain nutrients like vitamin C.
My pug loves red peppers, he can’t get enough of ‘em. We eat raw peppers almost daily, and for good reason! Unfortunately, when peppers are cooked above 300 degrees Fahrenheit or so, their nutritional value breaks down. In order to preserve the vitamin C, lightly sauté or eat raw with hummus. If you’re tired of hummus, try some of these amazing bean dips.
Like garlic, which we will discuss next, onions contain high levels of allicin — a compound that’s known for its cancer-fighting and immune-boosting properties. Both red and white onions are recommended in order to obtain enough quercetin, another potent antioxidant. Once cooked, however, these key nutrients and enzymes are destroyed. Add raw onion to your salads, soups and sandwiches — they add a nice textural component as well!
I’m no stranger to raw garlic — especially when I’m feeling a bit ill. Once again, high in the biologically active compound known as allicin, you will achieve greater absorption when consumed raw. Once cooked, the enzyme that supports the formation of allicin will become inactivated. Toss a chopped clove into your smoothies, or combine with olive oil and lemon juice for a simple homemade salad dressing.
Raw foods like coconut are high in protein, iron, folate and more.
The coconut craze isn’t going to die down anytime soon — why would it? Although coconut oil has taken the health and beauty world by storm, fewer Americans consume coconut in its raw, natural state. The white “meat” from a coconut is high in protein, iron, folate, fiber, potassium and so much more. When consumed raw, it’s easier to digest and is highly recommended within a vegan diet.
Although many like to slather their cooked broccoli with cheese, this seems counterproductive. When consumed raw, broccoli provides your body with an optimal dose of sulforaphane — an anti-cancer compound. When cooked, this beneficial nutrient becomes almost “locked” in, becoming less available to your body. This is also true for other cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts.
7. Nuts and seeds
Acting as a great source of healthy fats, protein, and other key vitamins and minerals, regular consumption of raw nuts and seeds will most certainly support positive health. Some of the best options include, but are not limited to:
- Macadamia: When consumed raw, you will benefit from high amounts of manganese, vitamin B1, oleic acid (a healthy fatty acid) and magnesium.
- Walnuts: When you eat just 1/4 cup of walnuts, you will obtain 100 percent of your daily recommended intake of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Also, when consuming walnuts fresh from the shell, don’t remove the white, almost waxy skin. It contains up to 90 percent of the nut’s antioxidants.
- Pumpkin seeds: We eat pumpkin seeds on our salad pretty much every evening, as they are known to be nutritional powerhouses. High in zinc, they’re known to promote healthy cell development and enhance both immune, thyroid and reproductive function.
Some other options include almonds, hemp seeds and Brazil nuts. You should also consume organic whenever possible — especially when consuming pistachios. These nuts often undergo a bleaching process to reduce the natural staining effects of the tannins which are released post-harvest.
See, I told you, none of these foods are weird or foreign. On that note, ask yourself, why am I not eating more of them? In order to take control of your health, you need to take action. Add the above foods to this week’s shopping list and continue to build healthier eating habits.
I mean, c’mon, you can’t argue with Hippocrates: “Nature itself is the best physician.”
— Krista Hillis