The raw food diet is based on the belief that the most healthful food for the body is uncooked. Although most food is eaten raw, heating food is acceptable as long as the temperature stays below 104 to 118 degrees Fahrenheit (the cutoff temperature varies among those in the raw food community).
Cooking is thought to denature the enzymes naturally present in food. According to raw foodists, enyzymes are the life force of a food, helping us to digest food and absorb nutrients. If we overconsume cooked food, our bodies are forced to work harder by producing more enzymes. Over time, a lack of enzymes from food is thought to lead to digestive problems, nutrient deficiency, accelerated aging, and weight gain.
Cooking food can diminish its nutritional value. For example, the cancer-fighting compounds in broccoli, sulforaphanes, are greatly reduced when broccoli is cooked. Certain vitamins, such as vitamin C and folate, are destroyed by heat. Other foods, however, become more healthful after cooking, because the fibrous portion is broken down. For example, cooked tomatoes contain three to four times more lycopene than raw tomatoes.
Cooking also promotes the formation of potentially harmful compounds in food during high heat cooking, such as advanced glycation end products and heterocyclic amines.
What Do I Eat On a Raw Food Diet?
There are different ways that people follow a raw food diet. Most people who follow a raw food diet are vegan. Some consume raw animal products, such as raw milk, cheese made from raw milk, sashimi, ceviche (raw fish), or carpaccio (raw meat). Some people eat only raw foods, while others include cooked food for variety and convenience. The percentage of raw food is usually 70 percent or more of the diet.
Raw food detox diets or cleanses are entering the mainstream. People typically go on a detox diet for 3 to 21 days. After the detox diet or cleanse, they may continue a raw food diet, return to their regular diet, or try to improve their daily diet by consuming more raw foods.