By Fyonna Vanderwerf, B.A., B.Sc
From an eat-clean perspective, the raw food movement speaks to what all of us want in wellness: quality eating, nutriently most effective, and meals that work as medicine to keep our bodies happy. But, with all movements involving food choices, it’s important to know the guidelines to see if it’s a great fit for how you like to strengthen and support how you live.
The basic definition of the raw food diet includes;
- Food that is consumed raw, in its original state
- Not heated at a temperature margin greater than 104-118 degrees Fahrenheit
- Unprocessed, natural, unpasteurized, and grown without use of chemicals, pesticides or additives
- Slightly processed, such as fermentation or sprouting
- Food choices include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, some meat and fish
- Emphasis on plant based meals
- No use of supplementation
The rationale behind this is based on an 18th century man named Maximillian Birden-Bennan. He was an originator of the idea that how our ancestors of the past lived was preferable to modern day civilization’s corruption and disrepair. He argued that society needed to return to a raw state of eating, that clothing should be optional, and exercise was needed to keep you moving. He found the ideas of Darwin resonated clearly: that truly, humans were animals, and that we need to return to that clean living state, including not cooking food. However, this also prohibits any additional additive support of vitamins and minerals, and some foods are not as regulated, which can lead to possible contamination.
The benefits believed to be gained from a raw food diet are also the allure: losing weight, increased energy, disease prevention and better overall health. However, these benefits can also clearly be met with being more mindful about foods, exercise, sleeping, and eating patterns, which if not aware of, can be coached and supported.
The theory behind eating raw is that food that is highest in the energy the sun provides (chlorophyll in plants) is the best energy for humans to ingest. The food is nutrient dense, it is easily digested for the most part, and the low acidic foods support a better alkalizing of the body. Additionally, some phytochemicals in food do not hold up well to cooking and lose some of their nutrient properties. However, other foods release nutrients by cooking (tomatoes-lycopene and carrots- beta carotene). When we can now buy pre-cooked pasta to heat up in the microwave in order to save an extra four minutes, the allure of the raw food eating plan is easy to see. As a society, our relationship with food has shifted to a much more processed state of mind, And with that comes complications.
The idea that still stands strong is that cooking can destroy valuable nutrients, add dangerous toxins, and destroy the very enzymes needed in our digestive tract to break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. However, digestion begins in the mouth, with a variety of enzymes pulled from various organs and support systems, and the macronutrients are broken down in different areas.
Science does indicate that having a proportion of both raw and cooked food in the system has strong benefits for health.
Like all diets and physician endorsed food plans, there is always an element of truth. Eating a food plan at least 75% raw or uncooked, when it’s based with fruits and vegetables, has been identified as a strong way to increase disease resistance, increase fibre, improve digestion and subsequent elimination. This is the belief system that we identify with canfitpro’s pyramid. There have been numerous studies that also demonstrate a clear relationship between raw food consumption and lowering the rate of developing certain cancers. In terms of environmental impact, a plant based diet, with minimal cooking, does not impact global warming as much as the production of cooking. However, raising animals for human consumption does directly contribute to harmful gas creation, whether meat is cooked or eaten raw.
From a biological progressive angle, cooking food has led to a further development in our species. As early as 1.8 million years ago, there are noticeable changes in the dental structure of our ancestors, Homo Erectus, that indicates a transition to eating cooked foods. The teeth and jaw are smaller in size, indicating a softer food diet, higher in starches, that required less mastication (chewing). As well, the additional support of fires and hearths as our ancestors moved towards farming, civilization, production and economy, indicates a growing reliance on cooking foods.
Overall, with most eating plans, following for a short term has benefits, but being able to broaden your choices and by not limiting how nutrients are gained in the system, sometimes provides a healthier approach to eating.