Raw Foods Diet Leaves Nutritional Gaps



Imagine a diet where all you get to eat is cookies. Believe it or not, it’s an actual diet. The celebrity cookie diet- sounds legitimate, right? It works by cutting your calories so drastically you may actually lose weight, but it’s safe to say you would probably be missing out on a lot of key nutrients.  So what is the healthiest diet? From vegetarian, to vegan, to low carb diets, to paleo, everyone seems to think they know best when it comes to which diet will help you lose weight and keep you healthy. However, there’s one diet that may not be as good for you as you’re lead to believe:  the 100% raw foods diet.

The raw foods diet is based on the belief that raw foods have more nutrients than cooked food. While sometimes true, this logic is flawed because this isn’t always the case.

For example, tomatoes have a lot of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps give them their color. According to the American Cancer Society, studies have shown that “lycopene levels in the blood found that levels were higher after people ate cooked tomatoes than after they ate raw tomatoes or drank tomato juice.” One explanation for this is that cooked tomatoes are more readily absorbed than when in their raw state. This alone makes the raw food logic appear shaky.

In a study done by the American Society for Nutrition, 201 participants consumed 1500 to 1800 grams of raw food of plant origin per day. The study showed that 38 percent of these raw food consumers were deficient in vitamin B-12. The same study also showed that the diet lowered plasma total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations as well as serum HDL cholesterol levels while increasing tHcy concentrations due to vitamin B-12 deficiency. Other deficiencies such as vitamin D and iron are all also associated with the raw foods diet and may become problematic depending on the strictness of the regimen.

However, this isn’t to say that the raw foods diet is completely bad. It does have beneficial aspects to it, such as promoting the consumption of more fruits and vegetables which are known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. As the study done by the American Society for Nutrition showed, the diet was also successful in lowering cholesterol and triglycerides. This was most likely due to increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Another aspect of the raw foods diet to consider is the havoc raw foods exude on your digestive tract. According to Donna Gates, the author of Food Ecology Diet, it’s pretty difficult to digest raw vegetables. Raw vegetables contain cellulose, an organic compound that humans lack the enzymes to digest. Many raw food proponents believe that because food is raw all the enzymes are still active, while the enzymes in cooked food are denatured.  Enzymes in raw foods actually do help aid in digestion. However, by cooking certain vegetables, you’re also helping to make vegetables more digestible by breaking down cellulose.

While 38 percent of individuals on the raw foods diet were shown to be vitamin B-12 deficient, it would be interesting to expand the study beyond 201 individuals in order to get a more accurate percentage. However, the discussion in the study suggests that it would be “ethically impermissible” to perform a large scale study “in view of the present alarming results”.

So, while you can find an online source for virtually anything you want to hear about the raw foods diet, the best way to discover what it does for your body is to try it. The one thing I know with a hundred percent certainty is the way I felt on the raw foods diet: fatigued, weak, and exponentially hungry.

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