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Food: eating in the raw

by Archives September 5, 2006

For most people, it’s common sense that eating raw fruits and vegetables is good for you. However, a small but growing movement of people have taken this notion a step further. They believe that cooked food is unnecessary and that a natural human diet should consist exclusively of raw food.

There are several organizations and websites promoting the raw food diet, including rawfood.com. The latter is run by the people who founded Nature’s First Law, a company that sells books, supplements and provides information about raw and organic food.

To a non-practitioner, a raw diet may seem extremely limiting. What does a raw foodist eat besides salad? To begin, raw foodists are generally, but not always, vegan. Many of the raw food recipes are innovative, and relatively easy to prepare. But they can also include exotic ingredients such as hemp oil and organic raw chocolate.

“There are a thousand different ways to do raw food,” said Jesse Noguera, a sales manager with Nature’s First Law.

Proponents of the movement say cooking food is such a standard practice that most people fail to question whether or not it is healthy. They believe cooked food is not only unhealthy but that it can even harm the body.

While the scientific community agrees that eating more raw fruits and vegetables is a healthy habit, they dismiss the movement’s claims that cooked food harms the body.

Dr. Sue Arntfield, professor of Food Science at the University of Manitoba, agrees that raw foods maintain nutrients that may be lost during the cooking process, but she adds that in North America, the food processing industry adds those nutrients back to processed foods. Arntfield notes that soaking, a non-heating method of food preparation used by some raw food adherents, can also leach nutrients out of food and can provide an ideal habitat for microbial growth.

Noguera counters that while there might be minor food safety risks associated with raw food, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

The health benefits claims of raw food include increased energy, less need for sleep as well as heightening of the senses (i.e. intuition). Raw foodists also feel that their diet is morally correct, because it is the natural way all other living beings obtain their food.

Many practitioners of the diet affirm that they do experience significant benefits from raw food. However, much of the information available is associated with the promotion of books, speaking engagements, or supplements, which provides fuel for the argument maintained by many health professionals that raw foodism is simply another diet fad. If you would like to try out the raw food diet, it is recommended that you consult a nutritionist beforehand. However, there is no harm in sampling from the raw food cuisine and it’s a great way to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Additional reporting by Melissa Gendron

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