With unprocessed, uncooked plant foods at its core, the raw food diet is considered rich in nutrients necessary for maximized health. The raw food diet is replete with fresh veggies and fruits; sprouts; seeds; nuts; grains; legumes; sea veggies; beans; coconut milk; raw virgin coconut oil; cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil and more—all organic, if raw food eaters want to keep it clean. The foods are also in their whole food state. Many raw food eaters make raw food comprise 75 to 80 percent of their total diet, although that percentage can vary.
Most of the diet is eaten raw, while the rest can be heated, but not above 115º Fahrenheit, so as not to destroy valuable nutrients, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals and more. Eating a raw food diet can also include juicing and blending veggies and fruits; sprouting seeds, legumes and some grains; soaking nuts; and drying or dehydrating fruits or veggies. That helps to leave the food more digestible, and it also allows the bodily organs to function well by putting less strain on them. A raw food diet is often naturally a detoxifying diet which helps the body to eliminate accumulated toxins.
With the menu of a raw food diet, it’s easy to see why it can help improve overall health and allow for weight management or even weight loss. In fact, many raw food eaters weigh less than those on other types of diets and consume far fewer calories—calories from nutrient-filled, healthy foods—than they would eat on a cooked diet. By nature, a raw food diet excludes unhealthy processed foods packed with sugars and sodium, refined sugars and flours, junk foods, fast foods and other foods that can lead to ill health—including cardiovascular, blood sugar and blood pressure unhealth as well as weight problems.
Here is what some research has gleaned on the raw food diet and weight management and overall health:
More than 500 people following a raw food diet for nearly four years were studied, and researchers found that body weight decreased as percentage of daily calories from raw food increased. By the close of the study, body mass index (BMI) was below the normal range for both male and female participants. Interestingly, even for those who bumped up their raw food intake to a 75 to 80 percent raw food diet, there were no negative outcomes cited—long-term or otherwise. The study was published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism.
And speaking of weight loss, in a small study published in the Southern Medical Journal, 32 people went on a diet that included at least 62 percent of daily calories from raw food with the rest coming from cooked foods. After about seven months, those participating lost an average of 8.3 pounds. Another three-month study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlighted 43 people on a raw food diet who lost 9 percent of their starting body weight. As you may know, if people are overweight, losing only 5 to 10 percent of their current weight can help them avoid certain diseases associated with excessive weight.
Another study found in the Archives of Internal Medicine put 18 people on a strict raw food diet and put another 18 people on a typical American diet. After four years, BMI and mid-section fat were lower in those on the raw food diet. Likewise, total body fat for raw food eaters was 13.9 percent for men and 24.1 percent for women, while those in the other “regular eating” group had total body fat at 20.8 percent for men and 33.5 percent for women.
These studies seem to point towards no real downsides to a raw food diet. However, some raw food eaters can come up short on nutrients such as B12, calcium, iron and zinc. Therefore, it's important to carefully monitor nutrient intake and supplement when necessary, if you choose to do so. And as always, you should check with your health professional prior to making dietary and lifestyle changes.
The bottom line is that there are truly benefits to the raw food diet. You may want to try it out!