Do one quick search and you will find thousands of articles advising you on the right diet for good health. Many of these are well researched and provide sound advice, but there are also others that don’t have any scientific backing and offer very poor advice which can even be dangerous to your health. One such advice is that raw food diet is good for your health. This is not entirely true and it can even have numerous adverse effects on your health.
Diets such as vegetarian diet, Mediterranean diet, and vegan diets have their own advantages, and also have considerable science backing them. On the other hand, a raw vegan diet or raw food diet isn’t of much benefit in spite of a lot of people, even celebrities, endorsing it. There are many doctors that caution their patients against a raw diet.
So, What Is Raw Food Diet?
Raw food diet is a plant-based diet that completely eliminates cooking. Foods are only heated up to 40 degree Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit at the most. Food is eaten fresh and dehydrated, either through fermentation or low heat. The basic idea behind such a diet is that heating food beyond 104 degrees Fahrenheit diminishes the nutritional value of the food, and makes it less digestible and toxic.
Following are some of the misconceptions about eating raw or uncooked food:
- Cooking destroys nutrients
- Cooking destroys enzymes
- Raw foods are detoxifying
- Raw veganism is healthful
- Raw-only foods are natural
These are mere misconceptions and have no facts backing them up. Most of us fall into the trap of believing these misconceptions.
Why Shouldn’t You Opt For A Raw Food Diet?
Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t opt for a raw food diet:
Our stomachs are not capable of breaking down cellulose and fibrous structures present in plants and vegetables. The digestive systems of animals are equipped and capable of breaking down and digesting the raw food that they eat, but humans do not enjoy this luxury. This is why raw foods are very hard on our digestive systems. As we start eating raw food our digestive system struggles to digest it. The more raw food we eat, the digestive system becomes weaker and loses the ability to digest food effectively.
A weak digestive system results in many ailments and conditions such as indigestion, constipation, bloating, food allergies, weight gain and even lowered immune system. An effective and efficient digestive system is crucial for our health. Hence, in order to have good health, we must have a healthy digestive system. Raw food does not facilitate a healthy digestive system. On the other hand, cooked food is easy on our digestive system.
One of the main reasons why raw food is recommended is because of its high nutrient content. If our digestive systems are not able to break down the food into essential nutrients, what is the point of eating nutrition-rich food? In vegetables, most of the nutrients are stored in the form of tough fibers. Unless these fibers are broken down, our bodies will not benefit from these nutrients. This is why cooking food is important. It breaks down these fibers into nutrients and minerals that are accessible by our bodies.
A naturally occurring compound called goitrogens is present in many foods, especially in the vegetables of the cruciferous family such as mustard greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and kale. These compounds hinder with the thyroid functions and even results in conditions such as hypothyroidism and goiter. Thyroid produces important hormones needed by our body and goitrogens negatively influence the production of these hormones. Cooking vegetables deactivates goitrogens in them. Hence, you can see how cooked food is healthier than raw food as cooked food does not contain goitrogens.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
A water-soluble nutrient, Vitamin B12 plays an important role DNA synthesis, red blood cell production and brain function. These are naturally present in animal-derived foods, such as fish, meat, and dairy products. Dairy products and fortified breakfast cereals are a good source of Vitamin B12 for vegetarians. Those on a strict raw food diet run a risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Depression, balance problems, mouth soreness, reduced appetite, constipation, fatigue, mental confusion and poor memory are some of the effects of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Benefits of Eating Cooked Food
Now that we have seen how eating raw food is not ideal for good health, let’s look at the benefits of eating cooked food:
Cooking facilitates effective digestion. The connective tissues in fibers present in plants and meat are weakened when cooked. This makes it easier on our digestive system to break down the food into useful nutrients. Hence, it not only improves digestibility but also makes essential nutrients available to our bodies. Cooking also deactivates toxic compounds and anti-nutritional factors such as protease inhibitors.
As cooked food is easy to digest and absorb, it has a positive effect on our metabolism and the net energy in our bodies. Studies have shown that cell matrix to which essential compounds are attached to is destroyed when cooked make it easier for absorption. Anti-cancer compounds such as phytochemicals and carotenoids are easily absorbed by our bodies from cooked food rather than raw food.
Food-borne bacteria are killed while cooking. This is important as it saves our bodies the energy required to fight such pathogens. It is important to note here that bacterial growth increases as the temperature of cooked food drops. Hence, it is vital to keep cooked food warm.
In conclusion, if you are on a quest for good health, then a vegan or vegetarian diet is ideal for you on a journey to good health. Raw food diet leads to more complications than benefits.